Don't Get Taken for a Ride on a Diploma

By Tisha Tolar on 12 February 2009 5 comments
Photo: Tisha Tolar

With all of the uncertainty in today's job market with rising layoffs, whether temporary or otherwise, many people are looking to expand their skills and education in an effort to get a new job, start an entirely different career, or are looking to find some additional personal fulfillment during this time of recession. If you are one of those people, looking to better yourself, your first thought might be going back to school. Your next thought might be to wonder what your options are.

Many who are looking to go back to school are interested in doing it in the easiest way possible in order to keep up with their current lifestyle or family situation. For many, this means hitting the internet and completing classes online, from the comfort of their own home. Online education programs can be a great way to fit in classes and advance your education without the additional expense of driving to and from the community college or even taking longer commutes and sticking to chaotic class schedules.

However, just like with many other things in life, there are those con artists who try to take advantage of honest people looking to better their own lives. Those of you looking online to satisfy your educational needs have to cautious. There are certain things you need to be looking for when it comes to choosing the right program for you. Imagine going through several classes only to find out what you have paid good money for is nothing but a scam. You can't get very far in life with a fake degree.

Here are some tips to help you through the process of an online education that is both the right choice for you and that is completely legitimate:

Check For Accreditation

The accreditation of a learning institution is voluntary. Accreditation of schools is conducted by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The CHEA considers accreditation to be a ““review of the quality of higher education institutions and programs.” Any institution seeking to be accredited must go through an in-depth self-evaluation which measures their performance in conjunction with the CHEA standards. The accreditation process is a long one – sometimes taking up to 10 years time and is on going . The accrediting agency will check back periodically to reevaluate each institution's status.

For many newer institutions, such as those who provide online study, the accreditation might be in effect but because they are relatively new companies, there hasn't been enough time passed to allow for the completion of the accreditation process. When a school has it's accreditation, you can be assured of the quality of the curriculum, the ability for students to get federal funding assistance, and the ability to transfer credits from that school to a different one.

There are two different types of accreditation. Since the federal government does not have a system yet established on a national level at this time, having a regional accreditation is the best choice. To learn if a school or program you are considering as earned accreditation, you can check out the CHEA website, the Department of Education website, and the Federal Trade Commission website for more information.

Not Accredited Still Okay?

If you are interested in a school or program that turns out to not be accredited, don't panic. Again, time issues may be the reason for that. There are other ways to check out the legitimacy of a school that has not yet received accreditation.

Here are some things you can do to check out whether or not a program is scam:

  • First thing you want to keep in mind is that if you attend a school that is not accredited, you might end up preventing yourself from getting needed licenses or practicing in certain fields. Find out if your intended field has certain educational requirements concerning a degree or diploma.
  • Contact the school directly and ask them to provide the reasons behind the non-accreditation status. If the school administration replies that they are in the process of establishing accreditation, ask for the name of the accrediting agency and then follow up with that agency. If the school can not provide a legitimate answer, you might want to reconsider your choice of schools or do some further research.
  • Find out the name of the state agency that presides over the higher education in your state. The agency should be able to tell you if the school is operating legitimately and if there have been any past problems or complaints that have been filed against the school.
  • If you are still concerned with the legitimacy of the school, seek out people who are already working in the field or industry you are planning to enter. As professionals, they may have some added insight into the school that will help with your decision.

Additional Lessons in Scams

There are an increasing amount of distance learning programs that have turned out to be fake. Sadly, no matter how obvious a scam may be, there are some who are looking for the easy education and are not above paying cash for their new degree without ever having to crack a book. Like the old saying goes “if it is too good to be probably is”. There is no easy way to get a diploma or a degree. It comes with hard work work, dedication, and some good old fashioned research.


Tagged: Career Building
No votes yet
Your rating: None

Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Guest's picture

Great post! Like any purchase-- one has to be very careful to get real value for your money including your education dollar..

Further, I do believe it is time to "retool", but school is only one way. Here is a list of "retooling" choices:

-Get or finish that GED
-Get or finish that college degree
-Get or finish that master's or doctoral degree
-Pick up some post-graduate courses or certificates
-Learn a new skill or trade
-Do some professional development courses
-Qualify for professional licenses
-Take sales or public speaking courses

More on retooling here:

Guest's picture

man! That's right!

Debbie Dragon's picture

Most of your traditional colleges, like community colleges, state universities and private institutions are now offering their classes in online formats, as well.  So you can take classes from your local community college via the internet and not necessarily have to find a school that is 100% online.

Guest's picture

As a professor, I'll underline that point that earning and keeping accreditation is extremely important to any legitimate college or university; it also serves as a student's guarantee that the diploma the institution grants will carry weight in the workplace. I'd be very cautious about advising anyone to enroll in a non-accredited school; in some states, using a degree from an unaccredited institution to get certain types of job is illegal. Who needs that kind of trouble?

Guest's picture

For anyone who lives in Washington State, there is a website called Washington Online and it is accredited and offers degrees and classes solely online through community colleges across the state. I have been using it for awhile now and I think it is excellent: