The Better Business Bureau has issued a warning about online programs that offer fast and easy high school diplomas and college degrees.
The BBB said there are several companies claiming people can earn an official diploma by paying a couple hundred dollars in fees upfront and then taking an online multiple-choice test.
These companies, called "diploma mills," offer the degrees for a flat fee and require little to no course work, but not all companies offering online diplomas or degrees are legitimate.
The Federal Trade Commission said the illegitimate companies exist only to make money, not provide an education.
The BBB said consumers should search to see if the school is accredited by a legitimate educational education:
- Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation
The BBB said to obtain a diploma or degree, legitimate schools require course work and interaction with professors.
Know the signs of a diploma mill:
- You can receive your diploma from home, ASAP. If you can earn a diploma without taking any classes or in-person tests, it’s a scam. Other red flags include degrees or diplomas awarded based on “life experience” that require little to no work. Legitimate diploma programs require weeks or months of time, and high school equivalency tests are administered in person, proctored and scheduled only on specific dates and times.
- You have to pay for a diploma. If prices are stated per degree instead of per credit hour, that’s a red flag. It’s OK to pay for classes or online courses for a degree program, but it’s a scam if you have to pay for just the diploma itself.
- The institution claims to be affiliated with the federal government. According to the FTC, the federal government doesn’t offer programs for earning high school diplomas, and legitimate tests or programs are approved by each state. However, no state accepts an online high school equivalency test. Also, if the institution’s address for administration buildings include P.O. boxes or suite numbers, that’s a red flag.
- The company uses pushy advertising tactics. Some diploma mills use high-pressure sales tactics through telemarketing calls, spam or pop-ups. Legitimate institutions or online degree programs won’t advertise themselves this way.
Organizations can always be checked out through the BBB website.
Click here for more information about diploma mills and signs of a scam.