Have you ever wondered the credibility of some of the diploma mills and institutions of accreditation that are popping up? Some of these institutions claim that they can grant you an educational degree in a very little amount of time with a low cost to boot!
The Council of Higher Education Accreditation (2003) argues that diploma mills and accreditation mills mislead and harm. Why? First, degrees and certificates from diploma mills may not be acknowledged by other institutions when students try to transfer institutions or go on to graduate school. Second, employers may not acknowledge degrees and certificates in terms of employment and providing tuition assistance for continuing education (Council of Higher Education Accreditation, 2003). They also argue that misleading accreditations can mislead students and the public about the quality of an institution.
Identifying diploma and accreditation mills is not easy. Many of the characteristics of these mills are similar to familiar higher education institutions and are similar to well-known accrediting organizations (Council for Higher Education Accreditation, 2003).
For example, in terms of diploma mills, prospective students and the public should be concerned if they
can answer "yes" to the following questions:
· Can degrees be purchased?
· Is there a claim of accreditation where there is no evidence of this status?
· Does the operation fail to provide a list of its faculty and there qualifications?
· Does the operation have a name that is similar to other well-known colleges and universities?
· Are there requirements for graduation? Does the operation lack state or federal licensure or authority to operate?
One of the many problems has to do with the fact that there is no single definition of a diploma mill or of an accreditation mill within the realm of higher education. As educators and staff within the realm of higher education we have to continue to be aware of the growing number of institutions and operations that may be falsifying programs and degrees for financial gain. This could greatly impact the quality of education for our students and it is a growing problem that needs to be addressed in the near future.
Be careful when researching these programs, especially for graduate school and/or professional development. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!