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Diploma Mills Defined. Also referred to as degree mills, a diploma mill is typically an organization which provides applicants with degrees, diplomas and/or other educational credentials which that individual has received in exchange for payment for said educational credential. In the traditional sense of the word, the individual need to not have ever received any grades, submitted any assignments, or even typed a single word as part of their ‘program’.
Here are some characteristics of diploma mills and some questions you need to ask yourself:
STOP > Your program of choice neither accredited nor recognized by the provincial or territorial body governing education in that jurisdiction. (Alternatively, the program is neither recognized nor accredited in the country in which the school is based. Or, if the program is a professional diploma or professional degree program, it’s not recognized by the industry and/or any governing bodies which regulates registration and accreditation of the trade or professional classification.)
GO > Programs are accredited by the governing body of the jurisdiction, recognized by the workforce, and there is greater chance of being able to transfer credits toward programs at another institution for upgrading or changing programs. (For professional degrees, you need to look for a seal of approval with the body which regulates the use of that particular professional classification/certification. You also need to look at other independent websites for those same professional certification/classification governing bodies, to independently verify whether the school or program of choice is actually listed as an institution recognized by and therefore permitted to use the seal of approval.)
STOP > The main determinant of your acceptance into your program of choice based on your life experiences. Your program of choice is delivered in a significantly reduced time frame, or extremely accelerated time period.
GO > Genuine programs at valid institutions typically require work experience for graduate (master’s or doctoral or professional degree/degree completion) programs. On average, this requirement can range from 2 to 5 years. Alternatively, another degree from an accredited institution may be an additional requirement.
STOP > Your program of choice is being offered at a set price or a set fee.
GO > Legit institutions are based on credit systems. For example, each course or program may be valued at a particular set of credits, which translates into varying costs for the course, and/or the program proper.
STOP > Little to no information on the actual course of program. Little to no information on the faculty/instructors. Some information provide might have been ‘borrowed’ from recognized schools and programs.
GO > Do your research. Be thorough. Google search is your best friend.
Bad Credentials Fallback. According to recent discussions on this subject within the last two to five years, experts acknowledge that the existence of degree fraud is definitely on the rise. There are some obvious and not so obvious ramifications for be awarded fake degrees by fake institutions. For example, some experts state that degree fraud cheapens the value and work of students who actually obtained verifiable degrees at real institutions. Employers, post-secondary institutions, and employment agencies must use additional financial resources to determine if credentials are authentic, prior to admittance into an higher educational program; prior to putting a candidate forward for a position (interview with an employer); and, prior to employers offering the chosen candidate a position with their company.
This is also important, regardless of whether one is aware that their school and program is not recognized/accredited, when the time comes to add these educational credentials on your resume. In the off-chance that neither you or your employer have discovered that your diploma isn’t authentic, should this be discovered at some point, you may run the risk of having worked so hard and made it so high up the corporate ladder, only to lose everything because you were originally given the position based on false claims, and fake credentials.
In part three we will discuss private career colleges and online schools.
Sources: About.com, TheGuardian.com