TSU Executive MBA Colby Nolan, APA Board-Certified Dr. Zoey Katze, and NARAE Certified Real Estate Appraiser Tobias F. Schaffer have a lot in common. They all love seafood, bird-watching, and warm milk before bed. They all hold advanced degrees or certifications. They also love tummy-rubs, because Colby, Zoey, and Toby are housecats.
So how, you might ask, did an animal that can’t operate a can opener acquire an advanced degree? Well, they didn’t use their innate talents or go-getter attitudes. Instead, they (or their owners) used their checkbooks.
Now, what kind of college or university would give someone, or something, a diploma just because they forked over some cash? Not good ones. These ‘degree/diploma mills’ replace teachers, textbooks, and classrooms with a bank account and a high quality printer. If someone pays enough money, they will print out a fancy looking diploma and letters of recommendation with that persons name on it.
Knowledge is Power
So how do you know if you are getting a Bachelor of Science or the other sort of BS? First, degree mills will accept you extremely quickly. Real schools take time to determine whether their applicants are qualified to attend their institution. Degree mills just want your money.
Second, they will offer you a degree for little or no work. You could skip the homework, the tests, the papers, and grades to get a degree just based on your ‘life experience’ and wallet, but what you’d be getting in return really is ‘just a piece of paper.’ Many will have your check cashed and your ‘degree’ in the mail in a few days or weeks.
Third, and most telling, these schools are not accredited. Real colleges and universities must be accredited for their degrees to mean anything. They must prove to a nationally recognized agency that their students actually earn their diplomas.
Even if a school says it is accredited, you need to do more research. Just as diploma mills hand out meaningless diplomas to unscrupulous students, accreditation mills hand out meaningless accreditations for unscrupulous schools. If you are planning on an online education, check with the US Department of Education to see if your school is worth your time and money. Be careful, many of these schools have names similar to reputable schools. Don’t confuse Kent College, an unaccredited school, with the historic Kent State University or the well-established Chicago-Kent College of Law.
Is it a Scam?
So what is the big deal? We all probably know someone that went to a real college and didn’t learn much there, either. But these unaccredited schools are causing problems in two major ways.
First, people who are trying to better themselves pay quite a lot of money for these degrees. They might turn in a few papers, click through a few power-point presentations, and a few months later, receive a degree. Then they go to use their degree to get a job and find out it is not worth as much as the paper it is printed on. This goes for GED programs as well. No one wants to spend time and money trying to move up in the world only to end up right back where they started. Even worse, the employer might not check into the school, leading to the second problem stemming from degree mills.
Second, people use these degrees to get jobs they are unqualified for. Whether they are real estate appraisers, Nuclear Plant managers , or Senior Director for the US Department of Homeland Security, people who misrepresent their credentials cause problems either through incompetence or through the eventual embarrassment to the company (or government agency) when they are exposed.
To some, college is not lifting a finger unless it is clutching a cheap beer or inside a giant foam finger at the game, but a college degree signifies that you did the work and made the grade. Legitimate online degrees offer the same education with the convenience of learning from home, but they still require that the student learns. College does involve paying a lot of money for a sheet of fancy paper with your name on it, but it involves a whole lot of work too. Just like diet scams do with losing weight, secret shopper scams do with making money, and penny stock scams do with investing, these degree mills take earning a college education, which traditionally takes a lot of work, and say they can give it to you with little to no effort. Don’t believe them.
If you are interested in getting back to school, do your research to make sure the program you are attending is worth your time. And consider this your first test: If it seems too good to be true, _______________.