Diploma Mills

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
http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/UniversityAndHigherEducation/DecidingWhereToStudy/DG_10031740
Bahur, Christopher. "Diploma Mills - Fraud in Higher Education."    DegreeInfo.com.
http://articles.degreeinfo.com/article24_1.html
Bartlett, Thomas, and Smallwood, Scott, "What’s a Diploma Mill?"   Chronicle of Higher Education   June 25, 2004.
http://chronicle.com/article/Whats-a-Diploma-Mill-/30156/
Bear, John & Mariah. "Degree Mills."   Quackwatch.
http://quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/dm0.html
Butler, David, "Diploma Mills: Beware of Fake Degrees"    About.com   Oct. 15, 2001.
http://www.elearners.com/resources/diploma-mills.asp
“Diploma Mills and Accreditation - Diploma Mills.”   Department of Education.
http://www.ed.gov/students/prep/college/diplomamills/diploma-mills.html
“Degree Mills and Accreditation Mills.”   Maine Department of Education.
http://www.maine.gov/education/highered/Mills/Mills.htm#oview
“Degree, Diploma & Accreditation Mills.”   Wisconsin Education Approval Board
http://eab.state.wi.us/resources/diplomamills.asp
“Degree/Diploma Mills and Accreditation Mills”   Colorado Higher education.
http://highered.colorado.gov/Academics/Colleges/mills.html

“Degree Mills: An Old Problem and a New Threat.”   Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
http://www.chea.org/degreemills/frmPaper.htm

"Avoiding Diploma Mills"    Military.com Education.
http://www.military.com/Education/Content/0,13302,Education_Diploma,00.html
Gollin, George, “Unconventional University Diplomas from Online Vendors.”   Sept. 2003.
http://www.hep.uiuc.edu/home/g-gollin/diploma_mills.pdf
“Important Questions About Accreditation, Degree Mills and Accreditation Mills.”    Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
http://www.chea.org/degreemills/default.htm
Phillips, Vicky, "Top 10 Signs: College Degree or Diploma Mill"    GetEducated.com
http://www.geteducated.com/articles/degreemills.asp

“Prepare for my Future: Diploma Mills and Accreditation”   U.S. Department of Education
http://www2.ed.gov/students/prep/college/diplomamills/index.html

“Statutes & Regulations Regarding Academic Degrees”   New Jersey Higher Education
http://www.state.nj.us/highereducation//More_HE_Resources/degreelaws.htm
“Tips on How to Validate a School's Claims”  Minnesota Office of Higher Education
http://www.ohe.state.mn.us/gPg.cfm?pageID=907
White, Chip, “Warning Signs of a Less-than-Wonderful School.”   Degreeinfo.com.
http://articles.degreeinfo.com/article20_1.html
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.
http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/06/nj_supreme_court_rules_refusal.html
Ackermann, Peggy / Bureau, Statehouse. “N.J. Senate approves ban on 'diploma mills' for school administrators, teachers to boost salaries.”   NJ.com, Feb. 2010.
http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/02/nj_senate_approves_bill_bannin.html
Armour, Stephanie. “Diploma mills insert degree of fraud into job market.”    USA Today   Sept. 2003.
http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2003-09-28-fakedegrees_x.htm
Bartlett, Thomas. “New Bill in Congress Would Make Diploma Mills a Federal Concern”   The Chronicle of Higher Education. January 2010.
http://chronicle.com/article/New-Bill-in-Congress-Would/63776/
Bartlett, Thomas, and Smallwood, Scott,  “Inside the multimillion-dollar world of diploma mills.”   Chronicle of Higher Education   June 25, 2004.
http://chronicle.com/article/Inside-the-Multimillion-Dollar/33805
Bartlett, Thomas, and Smallwood, Scott, “The University of Spam.”    Chronicle of Higher Education   June 25, 2004.
http://chronicle.com/article/The-University-of-Spam/34364
Bartlett, Thomas, and Smallwood, Scott, “Pssst. Wanna Buy a Ph.D.?”   Chronicle of Higher Education   June 25, 2004.
http://chronicle.com/article/Psst-Wanna-Buy-a-PhD-/24239
Bartlett, Thomas, and Smallwood, Scott, "Maxine Asher has a degree for you."    Chronicle of Higher Education  June 25, 2004.
http://chronicle.com/article/Maxine-Asher-Has-a-Degree-for/26415
Bartlett, Thomas, and Smallwood, Scott, “The hypnotist who married Lana Turner.”   Chronicle of Higher Education   June 25, 2004.
http://chronicle.com/article/The-Hypnotist-Who-Married-Lana/33404
Bear, John. “Diploma Mills: The $200 million a year competitor you didn’t know you had.”    University Business   Sept. 2001.
http://www.degree.net/html/diploma_mills.html
Diploma Mill News 2010: Blog dedicated to exposing diploma mills and their operators
http://diplomamillnews.blogspot.com/
“Faking it.”   The Economist   Aug. 2004.
http://diplomamillnews.blogspot.com/2004_08_01_archive.html
Hester Sr., Tom. “N.J. closes loopholes with online diploma mills used by teachers”   NewJerseyNewsRoom Feb, 2010.
http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/state/nj-closes-loopholes-with-online-diploma-mills-used-by-teachers
“How to recognize bogus diploma mill 'schools'”    dcmilitary.com  Oct. 2003.
http://www.dcmilitary.com/dcmilitary_archives/stories/101503/25741-1.shtml
Lederman, Doug . “Taking Aim at Diploma Mills.”  InsideHigherEd, Jan. 2010.
http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/01/29/mills
Parry. Marc. “Unmuzzling Diploma Mills: Dog Earns M.B.A. Online”   The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 2009.
http://chronicle.com/blogPost/Unmuzzling-Diploma-Mills-Dog/8175/
“Private universities target of Ontario crackdown”   CBCNews, April 2010.
http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2010/04/26/ont-education-changes.html
Robinson, Seth. “Diploma mills lure troops with promise of credits for ‘life skills'.”    Stars & Stripes   Sept. 2004.
http://www.estripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=20980&archive=true
Sedgwick, Robert. "Diploma mills go digital."   World Education News & Reviews   July/August 2000.
http://www.wes.org/ewenr/00july/feature.htm
Siciliano, Robert. “Diploma Mills Facilitate Identity Theft.”   HuffingToPost, Feb. 2010.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-siciliano/diploma-mills-facilitate_b_471723.html
Stein, Jeff. “’ Degree Mills’ Offer Consumers a Variety of Fake College Diplomas”   The Cornell Daily, March 2010.
http://cornellsun.com/section/news/content/2010/03/29/%E2%80%98degree-mills%E2%80%99-offer-consumers-variety-fake-college-diplomas
Tang, Heather. “State dominates the $200 million quick-degree industry.”   Pacific Business News   May 2000.
http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2000/05/29/focus1.html#top
“Top Ten States For Degree Mills and Fake Online Colleges.”   GetEducated.com, May 2010.
http://www.geteducated.com/breaking-news-consumer-alerts/21-breaking-news-consumer-alerts/347-top-ten-states-for-degree-mills-and-fake-online-colleges

Trainor, Gene. “Diploma mills keep churning out bogus degrees”   Star-Telegram, Mar. 2010.
http://www.star-telegram.com/2010/03/27/2071785/diploma-mills-keep-churning-out.html

Tutton, Mark. “Uncovering the multi-million dollar fake degree industry.”   CNN, Jan. 2010.
http://www.cnn.com/2010/BUSINESS/01/11/fake.college.degrees/index.html
“US report pins down bogus degrees.”    BBC News   May 2004
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3705909.stm
About Accreditation:
“Accreditation and Quality Assurance: Diploma Mills and Fraud.”    Department of Education, Dec. 2007.
http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ous/international/usnei/us/fraud.doc
Council for Higher Education Accreditation, Informing the Public About Accreditation:
http://www.chea.org/public_info/index.asp
Degreenet:   http://degree.net/guides/accreditation_guide.html
Reports/Investigations:
Congressional hearing on diploma mills (May 11 & 12, 2004):
http://www.credentialwatch.org/reports/mills.pdf
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:
http://www.nh.gov/postsecondary/colleges/diploma_mills.html

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 5, 2005.
http://www.credentialwatch.org/non/agencies.shtml
Barret, Stephen.   “Questionable Schools, an Overview.”    Quackwatch   November 26, 2005 (revised).
http://quackwatch.org/04ConsumerEducation/nonrecorg.html#nonaccredited

“Fake Universities” Indian University Grants Commission (UGC)
http://www.ugc.ac.in/inside/fakealerts.html

“Institutions Whose Degrees are Illegal to Use in Texas” Texas Higher Education
http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/apps/ConsumerInfo/NoTX.cfm
Maine Department of Education: Unaccredited Post-Secondary Educational Institutions:
http://www.maine.gov/education/highered/Non-Accredited/UnaccreditedSchools-112706.pdf
Oregon Student Assistant Commission, Office of Degree Authorization:
http://www.osac.state.or.us/oda/unaccredited.html
State of Hawaii:  Alerts and Bulletins:  http://www.hawaii.gov/dcca/areas/ocp/udgi/
State of Michigan: Non Accredited Colleges/Universities:
http://www.michigan.gov/documents/Non-accreditedSchools_78090_7.pdf
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:
http://www.chea.org/degreemills/frmStates.htm
Directory of CHEA-Recognized Organizations 2009-2010:
http://www.chea.org/Directories/index.asp
Department of Education:
http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ous/international/usnei/us/edlite-accreditation.html
Department of Education (Office of Postsecondary Education) accreditation agency and HEI search:
http://www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Search.aspx
Department of Education: Accreditation and Quality Assurance Postsecondary Accreditation
http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ous/international/usnei/us/accred-postsec.doc
Department of Education: Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies
http://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/accreditation_pg6.html#NationallyRecognized
GraduateGuide.com : Accreditation of Postsecondary Education in the United States
http://www.graduateguide.com/accreditation_of_postsecondary_education_in_the_united_states.html
Distance-Learning Consulting Services:
Degree Finders:  http://www.degreefinders.com/
ELearners.com: http://www.elearners.com/
Geteducated.com:  http://www.geteducated.com/index.asp
Obtaining Authentic Documents:
World Education Services: http://www.wes.org/ewenr/documentation.htm