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Find Out How to Spot the Diploma Mills

Diploma mills take money from unsuspecting individuals by providing a piece of paper that does not support the principles and ethics provided with a real diploma. The Higher Education Opportunity Act states that diploma mills provide degrees for a fee and lack accreditation or course structure to support the education presumed by the diploma.

Short Degree Times

Degree mills promise the world and often provide you with a diploma immediately or soon after you send payment. If the institution you plan on attending states that your degree requires significantly less time than a typical four-year college, it might be a diploma mill. Some diploma mills offer courses with little to no work involved. Diploma mills provide both high school and college degrees in a fraction of the time it normally takes to earn them. Sometimes the diploma is offered by passing an online test . Remember that the GED does not have an online testing option and must be taken in person. Reputable colleges also do not provide degrees based on a single test.

Real-Life Experience

One of the hallmarks of diploma mills involve the promise of getting a degree based on your life or personal experiences. While some courses in certain degree programs do count real-life work experience for a portion of college credit, no reputable institution provides degrees without a substantial amount of coursework. Sometimes a university provides honorary degrees for individuals that left a strong mark on society, but these honors cannot be bought.

Tuition Costs

Universities assess an education based on the number of credits completed. Rarely does a university charge a flat fee. When attending college, you select from a variety of courses that fit your degree program and requirements. In contrast, diploma mills charge a one-time, per-course or per-year fee. Legitimate schools also do not provide discounts for enrolling in more than one degree program. However, many legitimate schools do stop charging tuition for credits that exceed a certain threshold.

Faculty Members

The online halls of degree mills are usually hollow. You will not find many, if any, professors available to respond to your questions. The institution’s website might not have a faculty directory. If you do attempt to contact a listed faculty member, you are likely not to receive a response. Legitimate colleges have several departments, department heads, offices, and instructors that are available for students as needed.

Physical Characteristics

Often a diploma mill does not have a U.S. address, and it is based in a foreign country. If an address does appear on the website, in many cases, it is not an actual university address, but a drop box. Be wary of any address that includes a suite number or contains a P.O. Box. Universities usually include the school name in the address and a specific campus building. It also provides a location for walk-ins and appointments.


Check to see if you are dealing with a diploma mill by checking the accreditation. If you feel that a school may be legitimate but you cannot locate accreditation information, contact the accreditation agency for your state. Accreditation in the United States is a voluntary process, and schools don’t have to seek accreditation. While you can attend a legitimate school from an unaccredited university, receiving a diploma could hurt your chances for professional licensure and may even be illegal depending on your state. However, many diploma mills create false accreditation agencies and often show accreditation from several fake agencies.

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