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Beware Of Online Degree Mills!

JUNE 29, 2015

For prospective online students, searching for a degree program can sometimes feel like being lost in the wilderness, with no map and no way of gauging the quality of the programs being offered.  Students have so many programs to choose from, some with promises of quick, effortless degrees that seem too good to be true.  Unfortunately, they are sometimes degree mills and students are being duped into pursuing a bogus degree.  And yes, there are even Christian institutions that fall into this category.

Below are signs that an online program may not be legitimate as outlined in a recent U.S. News and World Report article entitled "7 Warning Signs an Online Degree is a Scam" by Devon Haynie:

1. Accreditation status is murky.  A good place to start in considering a program is to determine if the institution is accredited.  To be certain that the accrediting agency is legitimate, students should be sure the organization is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education.

2. The name seems prestigious, and vaguely familiar.  Sometimes bogus programs will "steal" a renowned name and modify it slightly.  

3. Earning a degree seems fast and easy.  If students are told they can get a degree without much time or effort, beware.

4. There's no evidence of student services.  Legitimate online programs should have a number of resources available to students, including technology support, advising, and library services.

5. An address is hard to pinpoint. Students are right to raise an eyebrow if a program does not provide any information about a campus or business location and refers only to an email address.

6. There's a lot of pressure to enroll.  Many degree mills employ salespeople who will not leave you alone.  Students should not  allow themselves to be pressured into enrolling--that's never OK.

7. The program requires a lot of money upfront.  One should be highly suspicious of a program that requires a substantial upfront financial commitment.  With most legitimate programs, students pay for courses they are taking each term or semester.

While there are many very legitimate online programs that are being offered by credible colleges and universities, there are also degree mills that will be more than happy to take a student's money.  Beware!

Larry J. McKinney
Higher Education Consultant
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