10 Great Ways to Recognize Diploma Mills

Nick Fishman

We’ve written extensively on the prevalence of diploma mills and the harm they can do to unsuspecting employers.  We recently found a great blog post published by Online University Degree on things employers can do to recognize and avoid them when conducting employment background checks.  Check it out this excerpt.

How to Recognize and Avoid Diploma Mills

The only way to recognize a bogus degree program is to do a little legwork yourself. The following list contains tips and information about known diploma mills as well as search engines that can help with your search and a few articles that may help you to recognize the diploma mill:

  1. Search for Accredited Colleges and Degree-Granting Programs: In 2005, the U.S. Department of Education formed a search engine for citizens to learn more about the colleges they want to attend. Each of the postsecondary educational institutions and programs contained within the database is, or was, accredited by an accrediting agency or state approval agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a “reliable authority as to the quality of postsecondary education” within the meaning of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA).
  2. Search for Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies: This information will back up what you learn from colleges that claim accreditation. This list, provided by the U.S. Department of Education, provides the names of accrediting agencies that are both recognized and legal.
  3. Learn About Unaccredited Colleges: This short list is provided by the State of Oregon, and covers colleges in California, Oregon, New Mexico and Utah.
  4. Learn about Diploma Mills and Accreditation: The Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) covers the gamut from federal recognition of college, accrediting organizations and a list [PDF] of known colleges that are not accredited by CHEA.
  5. Learn about Fake Accrediting Agencies: Although this article dates back to 1999, many reputable agencies continue to point to it to show agencies that are not recognized under GAAP, or the Generally Accepted Accrediting Practices. Additionally, the accrediting agencies on this list are not recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation in Washington or the U.S. Department of Education, nor by UNESCO or by the education departments or ministries of major countries.
  6. Get Information about Unaccredited Degree-Granting Institutions: This list provides a state-by-state resource to learn about unaccredited degree-granting institutions.
  7. Learn What a Fake Degree Looks Like: This document [PDF], provided by the United States General Accounting Office, shows degrees ‘earned’ (rather, paid for) from diploma mills.
  8. Learn the Tell-Tale Signs of a Bogus Degree: The Federal Trade Commission (FTA) offers a document that outlines the issues you need to look for when researching colleges. They also provide another documentthat outlines more issues.
  9. Research Private Colleges: Because a college is private, that does not mean it is legitimate. use the National Association of State Administrators and Supervisors of Private Schools Web site (NASASPS) to research any private school.
  10. Research Online Colleges: Online colleges may prove most problematic, as not all online degree-granting programs originate from a reputable source. Use search engines such as OEDb (Online Education Database) and eLearnersto learn more about online college degree-granting programs that are accredited by reputable accrediting agencies.

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Nick Fishman
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Nick Fishman

Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
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