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How to Know If a College is a Diploma Mill (10 Signs)

Have you thought about earning your degree online but don’t know where to start? We understand that not everyone can earn their degree on campus.

You have a family, a full-time job, or an obligation that keeps you busy for most of the day. So, earning your degree online is your way to get the college education you want without having to commit to attending a campus during the week. What do you do if a college is a diploma mill?

Selecting a college or university to complete your online degree can be tricky and overwhelming because there are a lot of diploma mill schools and it is very necessary for you to know how to identify these colleges to avoid being their victim.

We will be discussing what it means for a school to be a diploma mill and how to identify a diploma mill school in this article, so we recommend you read this article to the end. See How to Choose Online College.

What is a Diploma Mill?

A diploma mill is an organization or institution that issues certified qualifications for appropriate payment, with little or no requirements for the individual to demonstrate full competence at the relevant level in the discipline area.

Diploma mills provide a qualification for money without expecting the recipient to undergo the normal learning process of a student.

Diploma mills are, in essence, fraudulent operations, since it’s not a well-known institution, the diplomas and degrees it offers are worthless.

Based on 2011 data, the estimated number of diploma mills operating in the US amounts to more than 1,000.

Telling apart an actual college and a diploma mill, in most instances, is easier said than done. Check Best Online Courses to Take to Get a Job.

Diploma mills may be offering diplomas and degrees that do not mean anything alright. However, many of them are smart enough to take the necessary steps to make themselves and their offerings appear legit and vital to having a lucrative career.

Because of online education, getting a degree has never been more convenient. However, some people, including especially those hoping for better employment opportunities, end up with nothing due to diploma mills.

Why is a Diploma Mill Bad?

A diploma mill is bad because it does not grant diplomas and degrees that employers will take seriously.

More importantly, it does not provide the education necessary for gaining the knowledge base and skill set crucial for attaining long-term financial gain and career stability and satisfaction.

Believe it or not, diploma mills have been around even before the internet came into being.

The earliest known reference to diploma mills was in 1876. John Eaton, the US Commissioner of Education back then, referred to them as a disgrace to American Education.

More diploma mills appeared near the end of World War II, when the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, which offered educational opportunities to war veterans, was passed.

Nowadays, it’s so easy to establish a diploma mill — even a web designer with minimal skills can create a website with the look and feel of a legitimate school’s website. As a result, it’s so much easier for many to fall victim, too

10 Signs to Know that a College is Diploma Mill

Below is how to tell if the online school you are about to apply to is the real deal aspiring to add you to its roster of alumni or just a diploma mill wanting nothing but your money.

Many people fall victim to diploma mills because, more often than not, it can be difficult to spot them. Without a keen eye and enough time to do a little research, it can be very easy for one to mistake a diploma mill for an actual college.

The good news is that there are key differences between legit schools and diploma mills, though some can be hard to spot.

Here are the 10 signs that the website you have visited is a diploma mill:

1. Has No Accreditation

When in search of colleges and universities to apply to, students are strongly advised to check whether or not a higher education institution is accredited before placing its name on their list.

Being accredited is like having a stamp of approval for meeting or surpassing basic educational standards.

So, in other words, an accredited school can give you a quality education, culminating in the issuance of a degree.

If it appears as though the school you are about to apply to is not accredited, it is a good idea to look for another school.

Other than getting a quality education and degree, enrolling at an accredited school grants you access to financial aid and allows you to transfer earned credits to another accredited institution should you decide to switch schools.

Many institutions, including especially online ones, without accreditation are most likely to be diploma mills.

Keep in mind that some colleges and universities have no accreditation but provide legitimate and meaningful degrees.

However, you may have a problem with transferring credits if you enroll in a school that’s not accredited.

2. Has Accreditation (But From a Questionable Agency)

Some diploma mills may proudly state that they are accredited. As a matter of fact, many of them may include on their websites which accrediting agencies gave them accreditation.

But don’t be fooled — the accreditation of a diploma mill is as fake as the accrediting agency from which it came from!

Most students know for a fact that there are two types of accreditation colleges and universities may have.

They are national accreditation and regional accreditation, which are considered the more prestigious of the two. But there are a few other accreditation types, too, such as faith-related and programmatic ones.

You can rest assured that diploma mills claiming to be accredited have accreditations that do not come from any of the more than 80 accrediting agencies recognized by the US Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

3. Pushy Marketing Tactics

Unless you are a high school student with the highest IQ on the face of the planet or who has invented a cure for an incurable disease, it is very much unlikely that prestigious colleges and universities such as Harvard, Princeton, Yale or MIT will personally call and beg you to attend them.

Well, it is a different story when it comes to diploma mills — they tend to email or call everyone a lot.

The majority of companies offering fake diplomas and degrees are notorious for employing just about every single marketing strategy known to man, from pop-ups, spam emails to telemarketing calls.

Many of them sound so convincing, too, which is exactly the reason why many fall prey to these money-sucking predators.

If someone from some online school keeps getting in touch with you, block the sender or hang up the phone each time and keep yourself from being one of the at least 500,000 Americans with fake degrees.

4. The Only Requirement: A Credit Card

Applying to colleges and universities (legit ones) can be stressful and nerve-racking.

One of the reasons for this is the fact that there are simply lots of eligibility requirements to meet and supporting documents to submit.

Minimum GPA and test score, recommendation letters, admission essays, official transcripts — there are tons to accomplish!

On the other hand, there is only one thing the majority of diploma mills require: your credit card number.

Real higher education institutions ask applicants for all sorts of things to assess their college readiness.

Diploma mills, in contrast, ask potential victims for their Visa or MasterCard to have an idea of their ability to pay.

Some diploma mills may also ask you to submit a couple of things other than your credit card number.

For example, you may be asked to compose and submit a personal essay or provide a photocopy of your driver’s license.

Nevertheless, you can be rest assured that they won’t even look at those. Your credit card details will suffice.

5. No Classes, Exams or Professors

Besides applying to colleges and universities, attending a higher education institution itself for the sake of earning a degree requires a lot of hard work, too.

As a general rule of thumb, the more prestigious the school and degree, the more effort and dedication you will have to provide to graduate.

One of the things that make companies offering bogus degrees attractive to many is the fact that they make getting one’s hands on a degree so easy and simple.

As a matter of fact, there are no classes to attend, exams to take, and professors to interact with.

Legitimate online schools require their students to either go online at scheduled times at the same time or sit before their computers whenever they can to do substantial coursework.

Many online students are surprised to learn that online degrees are just as challenging to complete as their traditional counterparts.

6. Instant Diploma or Degree

On average, it takes online students months or years to get their hands on their degrees. It can take anywhere from 15 months to two years to complete an associate degree via the Internet.

On the other hand, it can take anywhere from three to four years to earn a bachelor’s degree over the web.

There is no need to wait for months or years to get your degree from a diploma mill. Depending on the “school” you enrolled in, you can get yours in a 24-hour period, five days or within a month.

While it is very much possible to earn an online associate degree in less than two years or a bachelor’s degree in less than four years, it’s highly unlikely to complete one in just a few days or weeks.

If it will take the degree to get to your doorstep faster than a decision letter from an actual college or university, it’s definitely from a bogus institution.

7. The Name Closely Resembles a Well-Known School

Diploma mills will do anything and everything necessary to keep their prospective victims from suspecting that they are mere diploma mills. And that includes giving themselves names that sound so legit.

Stanford University, Harvard University, University of California Berkeley, Princeton University, Vanderbilt University, Massachusetts Institution of Technology — do these names look familiar but not quite?

Many companies providing degrees no employers will respect often name themselves with names similar to the names of elite schools.

The aim is to make it appear as though they are associated with schools that are hard to get into. That’s because most employers find applicants with degrees from highly selective institutions absolutely irresistible.

Similarly, many people dreaming of owning degrees find it enticing to gain admission into schools for which they are not qualified.

8. Has No Physical Office

It is perfectly normal for colleges and universities offering online degrees to have no physical campus.

This is especially true for those that do not have hybrid classes (a mixture of online and face-to-face classes) or provide traditional degrees.

For instance, Purdue University Global, a regionally accredited online school, doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar campus.

Still, an online institution should have a physical office where its administrators and personnel could meet.

Using Purdue University Global, as an instance, it doesn’t have a physical campus alright. But, it has a headquarters, which is situated in West Lafayette, Indiana.

On the other hand, diploma mills do not have offices. That is because it will enable them to vanish without a trace, thus keeping their hapless victims from being able to come after them and get their money back.

9. Website Contains Stock Photos

To make their websites appear as reliable as possible, they add snapshots of their campuses, facilities and, most of the time, images of graduates holding diplomas or certificates or working for large companies.

However, the images they use are no more than stock photos that can be easily obtained in cyberspace.

10. Multiple Complaints or Bad Reviews

Many people who have fallen victim to companies providing worthless degrees try to exact revenge. And one of the quickest ways for them to get even is by sharing their nightmarish experience on the internet.

That is why it is good to check people’s reviews on the site before applying to an online school.


That was all on How to Know If a College is a Diploma Mill (10 Signs). Was it helpful to you? You can share your thoughts with us via the comment section if you found this article useful.

Last Updated on May 15, 2023 by Admin

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