In a world where technology evolves at a pace as rapid as it has for the last couple of decades, the importance of a good education cannot be overstated. Add to that our growing insistence upon instant gratification, not to mention the astronomical cost of a 4-year undergraduate degree, and the promise of obtaining a degree almost instantaneously, at little cost, and based solely upon your “life experiences” starts sounding quite attractive.
The downside to such “degrees” is that they are typically worthless as a springboard to any career that demands actual knowledge. Furthermore, claiming to hold a degree from one of these “degree mills” will likely be a black mark on the resume of anyone applying for a position with a reputable company. And while these faux degrees cost far less than does a real education, the cost versus benefit of getting one renders them no bargain at all. Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can look out for to avoid being taken for a ride by one of the degree mills. Let’s start by looking at some of the “red flags” that indicate that the college – and by extension, the degrees it offers – are bogus.
1) Guaranteed admission – What does it say about a college’s educational standards if the only criteria for admission is a credit card? Frankly, it says the same thing about the validity of any degrees they offer.
2) Lack of valid accreditation – Legitimate colleges and universities must demonstrate a high level of academic standards in order to be granted accreditation by either the U. S. Department of Education (http://www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation/) or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (http://www.chea.org/). If the college or university doesn’t have such accreditation, or is accredited by another official-sounding agency, you can safely assume that the college is bogus.
3) No physical campus – This should be a no-brainer. All other issues aside, how much credence would you give to a university whose “campus” is little more than a phone bank office?
4) Degrees are offered based solely upon your life experience – While many real universities will award some credits for documented professional experience, none will offer a degree without a significant classroom demonstration of your ability to learn. Some legitimate accredited universities do offer online classes, but the student must still perform study activity and pass examinations, and in the vast majority of cases, attend classes and pass on-site, professionally proctored exams.
5) Degrees are awarded in a short period of time – If the college’s advertisement or web page guarantees that you will be awarded a degree within a few months, the college is bogus. How can they offer a valid degree when they have no knowledge of your ability to perform?
6) Degrees are offered for a flat fee, based upon the level of the degree – Real universities charge according to the number of classes a student takes and the credits awarded for completion of those classes. Bogus universities charge an exorbitant price for a piece of worthless paper, and higher prices for supposedly “advanced” but equally worthless faux degrees.
7) Degrees are awarded upon submission of the creative exercise of your choosing – The topic of a thesis or dissertation must be approved prior to being written in order to be considered for an advanced degree at an accredited college or university. Some diploma mills will accept pretty much anything that is submitted, and often don’t even bother reading or evaluating the thesis before assigning a passing grade.
8) Little or no emphasis on faculty – Legitimate colleges and universities are rightfully proud of their esteemed faculty members, and willing (if not eager) to share faculty information with the public.
9) Degrees are not acceptable as prerequisites for admission to graduate programs – If the degree being offered is not accepted by accredited universities’ graduate programs, or if the class credits awarded are not transferrable, the degree (and/or credits) are essentially worthless.
In some states, it is actually illegal to claim having been awarded a degree from an unaccredited college or university as a means of establishing your professional qualifications. Some diploma mills have gotten around this by structuring themselves as “esoteric, spiritual, or metaphysical” schools. Perhaps the degree might carry some weight if you’re marketing yourself as a psychic or spiritual advisor, but in reality, you’d probably be better served by spending your “education fund” on some high-end gypsy attire and a nice crystal ball.
This guest post is contributed by Rebecca Gray, who writes for Backgroundchecks.org. She welcomes your comments at her email id: GrayRebecca14@gmail.com.