How to Win at "I Spy", in the Game of Diploma Mills


It is assumed that earning a college degree will increase one’s ability to successfully move up the ladder to higher paying jobs, that it will make your resume and professional quality preferred over someone who does not have a degree and that there are more work opportunities for individuals who hold a college degree. The US Department of Labor’s February 2010 data reports the unemployment rate of college graduates holding a Bachelor’s degree or higher has slightly increased to 5.0%, which is greater than half the nation’s unemployed citizens (9.7%).


Individuals seeking a college degree must weigh their options. A students tuition costs for a four year degree are likely to exceed $40,000. Accruing this amount of debt may in fact be more detrimental to ones career than helpful. Many employers view experience and work accomplishments as more important than simply holding a college degree. Nonetheless, accrediting agencies recognize that educational institutions may not legally grant degrees to people based on the number of years they have worked in an industry or the life experience they claim to have.


People that are looking for an easy, stress free degree that doesn’t require college level work is the reason diploma mills continue to earn in excess of 10 – 20 million dollars a year. Diploma mills will continue to grow as long as people are willing to pay for a fake degree. Sad but true, most people who purchase a degree from a diploma mill are aware of their actions.


For those students seeking career preparation and opportunities to advance their careers it is important to decipher between institutions offering high quality education programs as compared to colleges that are more interested in getting your money than providing an education. Educational institutions that charge unrealistic fees and offer degrees that can be completed in a few months or less are referred to as diploma mills.


In the pursuit of higher education it is valuable to know how to identify bogus colleges. Diploma mills typically share attributes that are easily identifiable using some easy guidelines. Diploma mills:


  1. Most frequently sell their programs online with all correspondence being received at a post office box or by means other than a street address.

-         Programs are only available online

-         Contact can be made with the university by telephone or by submitting a question using the online system.

-         All enrollment materials and literature are facilitated through an online system.

-         Contact address does not match mail delivery address.

-         Institution is located in a foreign country but materials and information specifically targets US students.


  1. The college refers to life experience degree programs.

-         Degrees are awarded based on an individuals self noted experience.

-         Literature generally says students can complete degrees quickly and affordably.

-         Institutions tout claims of meeting students unique needs, using a cutting edge curriculum based on students’ needs and professional service.

-         Programs or requirements are frequently referred to as guides.


  1. Institutions use names that are closely related to State universities or other accredited post-secondary institutions.
  2. False accreditation claims are made with organizations that may not even exist or are not recognized as legitimate accrediting agencies. Accreditation may be determined by contacting the:

-         State Attorney General’s Office

-         US Department of Education

-         Better Business Bureau

-         Council on Higher Education Accreditation is continuing its work on maintaining a list of unaccredited institutions

and is a great resource.


  1. Foreign diploma mills can be misleading. It is much harder to identify the accreditation standards of foreign institutions. Contacting the Ministry of Education of the specific country is the best method.
  2. Admission requirements are based on an individual’s resume, financial status, or the ability to pay a set sum of money to receive a specified degree.
  3. A class list, faculty list and semester outline are not available and specific information is not readily available regarding class outlines and requirements to obtain the degree.


Detailed internet searches and comprehensive research quickly identifies any discrepancies in the authenticity of a college. Illegitimate organizations, such as diploma mills can be difficult to pinpoint, however, online searches including the college name with identifiers like: fake, diploma mill, complaints, reports, etc. will identify information that is related to illicit practices.


Foreign students can easily be victims of US diploma mills due to their use of familiar brand names, fake accrediting agencies and their unique ability to readily provide falsified information.

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