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Consumer Information > Diploma Mills

Diploma Mills/Fake Diplomas

Diploma mill is a term for an institution that:

  • Isn't accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Operates primarily to make money, not to provide education to its students.
  • Issues degrees without regard to whether or not students receive an education.

Diploma mills, often with official-looking seals, some with pictures of bucolic-looking campuses, and some with “.edu” in their Internet addresses, may share some of these characteristics:

  • Require no study, tests, or papers
  • Have no buildings or physical campus
  • Have no classes or professors
  • Boast of accreditation but don't say which organizations accredit them
  • Advertise they're "licensed by the state"
  • Offer degrees based solely on "portfolio assessments" rather than coursework
  • Send mass e-mailings
  • Sell forged diplomas of legitimate schools
  • Issue diplomas from nonexistent schools with names very similar to reputable schools
  • Prey on foreign students

Diploma mills

  • Waste students' time and energy.
  • Cost students many thousands of dollars each year.
  • Take advantage of less well-informed citizens.
  • Encourage fraud in regulated professions.
  • Pose a threat to legitimate institutions of higher learning by making all degrees suspect.
  • Cause employers to waste time and money verifying degrees.

What follows are some questions developed by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to help you determine if an institution you’re thinking about might be a diploma mill. If you answer “yes” to most of these questions, you might be better served looking at a different institution.

  • Can the degree be purchased?
  • Is there a claim of accreditation when there is no evidence of this status?
  • Is there a claim of accreditation from a questionable accrediting organization?
  • Does this operation lack state or federal licensure or authority to operate?
  • Is little, if any, attendance required of students?
  • Are few assignments required for students to earn credit?
  • Is a very short period of time required to earn a degree?
  • Are degrees available based solely on experiences or resume review?
  • Are there few requirements for graduation?
  • Does the operation charge very high fees as compared with average fees charged by higher education institutions?
  • Alternatively, is the fee so low that it does not appear to be related to the cost of providing legitimate education?
  • Does the operation fail to provide any information about a campus or business location or address and relies, for example , only on a post office box?
  • Does the operation fail to provide a list of its faculty and their qualifications?
  • Does the operation have a name similar to other well-known colleges and universities?
  • Does the operation make claims in its publications for which there is no evidence?
You can find a list of Illinois colleges and universities at Illinois Institution List.

To file a complaint against a school, click here.

Copyright 2012