Which Online Colleges Are Scams?

Category: Education

I've decided that I need to complete my college degree, in order to improve my chances at getting a better job. I can't attend college full time, so I'm looking into online college options. Can you give me some tips on how to avoid the scams and find the real deal?

Can I Earn My Degree Online?

Education is a wonderful thing, and experience is the best teacher. But you don't want the experience of buying a degree from an online college that turns out to be utterly worthless. You can learn a lot by taking online college courses, and there are some legitimate degree programs. But unfortunately, there are also plenty of self-styled online colleges that are nothing more than diploma mills. The Internet makes it all too easy for them to scam the gullible.

"Too easy" is the first sign that an online college program may be a scam. A real college education takes years, not months, and certainly not the 30 days that some diploma mills promise. Yes, there are legitimate "accelerated" learning programs, but even these take a year at least. If an online college appeals to your desire for immediate gratification, avoid it.
Online College Scams

College is not cheap, as every student knows. But online college scams promise degrees for as little as $250, and often make price the centerpiece of their websites. No legitimate college offers a degree for a flat fee of any size. Real colleges sell courses and credits a la carte.

The availability of federal financial aid for students is another indicator to look for. An online college that does not offer financial aid should be avoided. Also watch out for online college scams that promise financial aid after you enroll - that is, before you know how you can pay for your commitment.

If you cannot learn anything about the faculty or curricula of an online college, it is almost surely a scam. Some online college fraudsters promise "complete information" after you enroll, which means you have to pay to learn who will be teaching you and what will be taught. Real colleges don't work that way.

Is It Accredited?

An online college with no associated physical campus that claims to be "accredited" is suspect. The U. S. Department of Education maintains a Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs where you can look up any college that claims to be accredited. (The DoE does not accredit colleges itself, but maintains this database of information submitted by accrediting agencies.) If the online college you are considering is not in this database, it is probably a scam.

Claims that you can earn a college degree just by answering a few questions about your "life experience" are always bogus. Yet some people fall for this one. In one instance, a nurse assistant took a thirty-question survey through a website, paid $1,400 via credit card, and received an email saying basically "Congratulations - you're a doctor." Those who fall for this scam may get an official-looking "diploma" in the mail, but it's not worth the postage.

Research is your best ally to avoid being taken in by online college scams. Search online for opinions of former students. Don't be swayed by websites that claim to rate college programs; some are run by the scammers themselves. Contact federal and state departments of education to ask about an online college before you pay any fees or sign any contracts. Above all, don't fall for something that looks too good to be true.

Do you have any experience with online colleges that you'd like to share? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Posted by on 27 Jun 2011


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Most recent comments on "Which Online Colleges Are Scams?"

Posted by:

Danica
27 Jun 2011

Another important thing to consider is the cost. One online fully accredited school that advertises heavily on television offers an associates degree for $42,000 in an IT related field with no internship. But another fully accredited school offers a bachelor's degree, same field and with internships for $53000.

Cost basis, the bachelor degree gives you more than simply a lot of theory. The internship while you attend online classes gets your foot in the door doing the work before you graduate.

For a working adult returning to college for a first degree or to complete one, think about what happens after you graduate.


Posted by:

J. Stubbs
27 Jun 2011

What is possibly the most informative about this piece is that no Online program is mentioned. Bob regularly gives names of organizations or companies in his writings. What this suggests to me is that he’s yet to find a worthwhile degree program that is entirely Online. In other words, to earn a useful degree you’ve got have some form of contact beyond contact over the Internet.
The suggestion that talking to successful graduates is an effective way to screen out ineffective programs is the way to go. College and university programs often use their graduates to help “sell” their programs. I’m regularly asked by my Alma Mater to talk to prospects. If the Online program can’t give you the names of five successful graduates who will talk to you, then go on to the next program.


Posted by:

Sue Hutchinson
28 Jun 2011

I earned my Masters Degree at Walden University, and my doctorate at Nova Southeastern University. Both of these online programs delivered what they advertised. I believe I got an excellent education at both schools.

I teach at Kaplan University as an adjunct faculty member in the graduate program. As an instructor, I can state that my course is rigorous and provides the students more that the course description states. Since it is a Kaplan designed course, one can generalize that all their courses are designed with the same philosophy.


Posted by:

Judy Redman
28 Jun 2011

The other thing to bear in mind, once you have found a legitimate, accredited school, is to make sure that the qualification you are going to get will actually get you into the job/career you're interested in. It is really worthwile checking out job ads for the kinds of jobs you would like to have and finding out whether they want a bachelors degree or a diploma or a masters and whether they want specific majors within a general area. A less expensive qualification, even though it is from an accredited school, is still a waste of money if you can't get a job with it!!


Posted by:

Judy Redman
29 Jun 2011

I imagine that Bob hasn't mentioned names because there are way too many reputable universities and colleges offering reputable on-line qualifications. Most also offer their qualifications face to face, which is a good clue, but there are also very reputable universities that only function on line eg Capella in the US and Athabasca in Canada. If an institution is offering something that is very quick, very easy and/or very cheap, it's probably a scam. Otherwise, you need to read all the information very carefully to judge.


Posted by:

Dave
29 Jun 2011

Another caution not mentioned is the fake accreditation ploy. Many times, the scam diploma mill will have also established a corresponding fake accreditation agency with an official sounding name which - you guessed it - lists the diploma mill itself as one of its "accredited" on-line colleges.

A related ploy is advertising statements that the diploma mill is "certified", or some such other similar term, by the state. Be aware that such certification by one or more states is usually legitimate, however it is academically meaningless. It does not certify anything about the legitimacy of the academic program or worth of the degree - only that they have filed official paperwork with the bureaucracy and have paid the required fee for being officially listed as conducting training and offering "degrees" in that state - even including diploma mills.

Lastly, one of the worst things a person can do is to include degrees from what will inevitably be found out, by the employer, to be a diploma mill on the resume as qualifications for a position.

This deception may not be discovered for months, or even years, but this ticking career time bomb will eventually turn up under the most unfortunate of time and circumstances and when it is long-forgotten and least expected by the otherwise excellent employee. This can be construed as fraud by the taken-in employer and usually results in immediate dismissal from the position and the firm and, not infrequently, results in prosecution by the authorities.

There is no short-cut to a worthwhile education and degree from a legitimate college/university, whether it is done on-line or through in person classes. Do not fool yourself and be taken in by a diploma mill.


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