What is a Diploma Mill?
A diploma or degree mill is an entity that sells postsecondary credentials without requiring appropriate academic achievement. In many jurisdictions inside and outside the United States, diploma mills are illegal. These scam operations can be difficult to trace because they usually use mail drops and multiple addresses. Numerous degree mills operate on the Internet, where they often masquerade as institutions of distance learning. Legitimate distance-learning providers are recognized in the countries where they are located, and their status can be verified by contacting the relevant educational authorities. Academic credential evaluators should be suspicious of documents issued by “universities” with addresses that are office suites or box numbers that cannot be verified in any authoritative independent publication. Most degree mills also claim accreditation by one or more fictitious “national,” “international,” “worldwide” or “global” accrediting agencies. Verifying the existence and status of an institution is an essential step when reviewing educational documents.
How to Spot Them
There are several types of diploma mills. Some are outright scams that sell degrees or diplomas without requiring any work whatsoever. Others appear more ambiguous in terms of their legitimacy, offering short-term degrees in exchange for some form of academic work, such as a thesis or dissertation. These organizations, according to experts, are the most dangerous kind of diploma mills because they appear to be legitimate.
If an institution is not accredited by an agency recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education, chances are it’s a diploma mill. However, accreditation does not necessarily guarantee legitimacy. There are currently 35 accrediting agencies in the United States that are not recognized by the Department of Education or CHEA and that will put their stamp of approval on just about any program with no questions asked. In many cases, the accrediting agencies in question are merely self-serving organizations set up by the diploma mills themselves.
For more information on this subject, check out the following Web sites and articles:
|Identifying Degree Mills:|
| “Avoiding Bogus Degrees” Direct.gov
|Bahur, Christopher. "Diploma Mills - Fraud in Higher Education." DegreeInfo.com.
|Bartlett, Thomas, and Smallwood, Scott, "What’s a Diploma Mill?" Chronicle
of Higher Education June 25, 2004.|
|Bear, John & Mariah. "Degree Mills." Quackwatch. |
|Butler, David, "Diploma Mills: Beware of Fake Degrees" About.com Oct. 15, 2001.|
|“Diploma Mills and Accreditation - Diploma Mills.” Department of Education.|
|“Degree Mills and Accreditation Mills.” Maine Department of Education.|
|“Degree, Diploma & Accreditation Mills.” Wisconsin Education Approval Board
|“Degree/Diploma Mills and Accreditation Mills” Colorado Higher education.
“Degree Mills: An Old Problem and a New Threat.” Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
|"Avoiding Diploma Mills" Military.com Education.
|Gollin, George, “Unconventional University Diplomas from Online Vendors.” Sept. 2003.
|“Important Questions About Accreditation, Degree Mills and Accreditation Mills.” Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Phillips, Vicky, "Top 10 Signs: College Degree or Diploma Mill" GetEducated.com
“Prepare for my Future: Diploma Mills and Accreditation” U.S. Department of Education
|“Statutes & Regulations Regarding Academic Degrees” New Jersey Higher Education
| “Tips on How to Validate a School's Claims” Minnesota Office of Higher Education
|White, Chip, “Warning Signs of a Less-than-Wonderful School.” Degreeinfo.com.
|Articles Discussing Degree Mills:|
|Ackermann, Peggy / Bureau, Statehouse. “N.J. Supreme Court says refusal to renew former college dean's contract was age discrimination” NJ.com, June 2010.
|Ackermann, Peggy / Bureau, Statehouse. “N.J. Senate approves ban on 'diploma mills' for school administrators, teachers to boost salaries.” NJ.com, Feb. 2010.
|Armour, Stephanie. “Diploma mills insert degree of fraud into job market.” USA Today Sept. 2003.
| Bartlett, Thomas. “New Bill in Congress Would Make Diploma Mills a Federal Concern” The Chronicle of Higher Education. January 2010. |
|Bartlett, Thomas, and Smallwood, Scott, “Inside the multimillion-dollar
world of diploma mills.” Chronicle of Higher Education June
|Bartlett, Thomas, and Smallwood, Scott, “The University of Spam.” Chronicle of Higher Education June 25, 2004.
|Bartlett, Thomas, and Smallwood, Scott, “Pssst. Wanna Buy a Ph.D.?” Chronicle of Higher Education June 25, 2004.
|Bartlett, Thomas, and Smallwood, Scott, "Maxine Asher has a degree for you." Chronicle of Higher Education June 25, 2004.
|Bartlett, Thomas, and Smallwood, Scott, “The hypnotist who married Lana Turner.” Chronicle of Higher Education June 25, 2004.
|Bear, John. “Diploma Mills: The $200 million a year competitor you didn’t know you had.” University Business Sept. 2001.
| Diploma Mill News 2010: Blog dedicated to exposing diploma mills and their operators
|“Faking it.” The Economist Aug. 2004.
| Hester Sr., Tom. “N.J. closes loopholes with online diploma mills used by teachers” NewJerseyNewsRoom Feb, 2010.
|“How to recognize bogus diploma mill 'schools'” dcmilitary.com Oct. 2003.
| Lederman, Doug . “Taking Aim at Diploma Mills.” InsideHigherEd, Jan. 2010.
| Parry. Marc. “Unmuzzling Diploma Mills: Dog Earns M.B.A. Online” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 2009.
|“Private universities target of Ontario crackdown” CBCNews, April 2010.
|Robinson, Seth. “Diploma mills lure troops with promise of credits
for ‘life skills'.” Stars & Stripes Sept. 2004.
|Sedgwick, Robert. "Diploma mills go digital." World Education News & Reviews July/August 2000.
| Siciliano, Robert. “Diploma Mills Facilitate Identity Theft.” HuffingToPost, Feb. 2010.
| Stein, Jeff. “’ Degree Mills’ Offer Consumers a Variety of Fake College Diplomas” The Cornell Daily, March 2010.
|Tang, Heather. “State dominates the $200 million quick-degree industry.” Pacific Business News May 2000.
|“Top Ten States For Degree Mills and Fake Online Colleges.” GetEducated.com, May 2010.
Trainor, Gene. “Diploma mills keep churning out bogus degrees” Star-Telegram, Mar. 2010.
| Tutton, Mark. “Uncovering the multi-million dollar fake degree industry.” CNN, Jan. 2010.
|“US report pins down bogus degrees.” BBC News May 2004
|“Accreditation and Quality Assurance: Diploma Mills and Fraud.” Department of Education, Dec. 2007.
|Council for Higher Education Accreditation, Informing the Public About Accreditation:
|Congressional hearing on diploma mills (May 11 & 12, 2004): |
|Federal Trade Commission: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt149.shtm (January 2005)|
|Federal Trade Commission. Scholarship Scams: http://www.ftc.gov/scholarshipscams|
|Federal Trade Commission. Facts for Businesses: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/ecommerce/bus61.shtm|
|National Council Against Health Fraud Position Paper: http://www.ncahf.org/pp/dipmill.html|
New Hampshire Postsecondary Education Commission:
|Oregon Office of Degree Authorization: http://www.osac.state.or.us/oda/diploma_mill.html|
|U.S. General Accounting Office: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04771t.pdf|
|Washington Higher Education: http://www.hecb.wa.gov/autheval/daa/daaindex.asp|
|Degree Mill Listings:|
|Barret, Stephen. “Be Wary of Non-recognized Accreditation Agencies.” Quackwatch August
|Barret, Stephen. “Questionable Schools, an Overview.” Quackwatch November 26, 2005 (revised).
“Fake Universities” Indian University Grants Commission (UGC)
| “Institutions Whose Degrees are Illegal to Use in Texas” Texas Higher Education
|Maine Department of Education: Unaccredited Post-Secondary Educational Institutions:
|Oregon Student Assistant Commission, Office of Degree Authorization:
|State of Hawaii: Alerts and Bulletins: http://www.hawaii.gov/dcca/areas/ocp/udgi/|
|State of Michigan: Non Accredited Colleges/Universities:
|Institutions Listing Approved Accreditation Agencies and Higher Education Institutions in the United States:|
|Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA): http://www.chea.org/|
|CHEA Links to Licensed or Authorized Institutions by State:
|Directory of CHEA-Recognized Organizations 2009-2010:
|Department of Education:
|Department of Education (Office of Postsecondary Education) accreditation agency and HEI search:
| Department of Education: Accreditation and Quality Assurance Postsecondary Accreditation
|Department of Education: Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies
| GraduateGuide.com : Accreditation of Postsecondary Education in the United States
|Distance-Learning Consulting Services:|
|Degree Finders: http://www.degreefinders.com/|
|Obtaining Authentic Documents:|
|World Education Services: http://www.wes.org/ewenr/documentation.htm|