Education Scams: Diploma Mills and Fraud Degrees
Quick degree scams - "Get your degree in 30 days!" "No studying
required", "Turn your experience into a degree". They say they
are accredited and the degree is legal and meaningful. That's part of the scam.
of unaccredited, substandard, and/or fraudulent postsecondary education
(college, university, graduate schools) providers
is a global phenomenon, as is the existence of unrecognized and/or fraudulent accreditors. The credits and degrees awarded by these unaccredited or sham
diploma mills are not going to be recognized by legitimately accredited institutions,
official professional licensing authorities, recognition authorities or
And when the sham is exposed that you purchased your
degree; you'll be out on the street and no one will hire you. You may make
the cover of a newspaper, exposed as the worthless hack you are for attempting
to buy your degree. You may make a list of people who have purchased scam
degrees, that we're working on right now.
So how do you avoid being sucked into an education scam?
What to watch for to recognize a diploma scam
Unaccredited schools share a number of fairly easy to verify characteristics.
See this page for a
checklist to check out a school or degree program that you are considering.
Then check this master list of
scam schools and this
list of unaccredited schools
U.S. Laws on fake degrees
are inconsistent in the United States. Even where it is explicitly illegal, both
in some states and abroad, enforcement is erratic. The U.S. federal government
puts the responsibility on the states, and since it is a white collar crime, no
large scale enforcement has taken place.
Types of Fake Degrees
There are two types of fake degrees:
- Diploma mills - they offer to convert “life experiences”
into coursework (complete with grades) based on your own self-assessment.
Often these schools claim to be accredited. Diploma mills claim to be institutions of higher education,
but they operate without supervision of a state or
professional agency. The diplomas are scams because the "institution" lacks the proper standards.
- Fake degrees for sale - there's little mistaking the fraud here:
they simply offer to produce a "real" degree for you for a price: no course,
no studying, no exams, no review, no "life experiences", nothing. Give
them money; they send you a diploma.
resources can help you to avoid substandard and unaccredited institutions,
unrecognized accrediting bodies, and academic frauds that have been or are being
investigated and prosecuted.
FEDERAL INFORMATION RESOURCES
Diploma Mills and Accreditation
is the U.S. Department of Education’s overview and guide to how to recognize
fraudulent institutions and accrediting bodies.
is the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s guide to avoiding fake offers of student
GAO Reports on Diploma Mills
provides links to reports on diploma mills issued by the U.S. General
Accountability Office (GAO), the investigation and auditing agency of the U.S.
Congress that has examined how the diploma mill problem affects both U.S.
citizens and the federal government.
STATE INFORMATION RESOURCES
state governments actually oversee the organization and structure of U.S. higher
education, the state agencies that publish information about diploma mills and
accreditation mills are very important. Several states agencies now have the
legal power to publish “negative lists” of unapproved, unaccredited, or illegal
- Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Guide to Unaccredited
provides links to information on Hawaii’s actions to combat diploma mills,
including lists of providers that have recently been prosecuted.
- Maine Department of Education Degree Mills and Accreditation Mills Page
provides information on Maine laws and procedures and a list of unaccredited
institutions known to operate in Maine.
Michigan List of Unaccredited Institutions and Unrecognized Accrediting Bodies
is the official Michigan list of illegal providers and accreditors known to
operate in that state.
- Minnesota Office of Higher Education Tips for Validating a School’s Claims
provides links to information resources on state-approved institutions, fraud
complaints, and related matters.
- New Jersey Statutes & Regulations Regarding Academic Degrees provides
information and links to New Jersey regulations prohibiting the use of
qualifications earned from institutions not accredited by a recognized
- Oregon Office of Degree Authorization (ODA) provides extensive and
authoritative information on diploma ills and other unaccredited institutions,
state policies on regulating unaccredited institutions, as well as links to
other authorities and an extensive list of diploma mills and other unaccredited
and unrecognized providers. The Oregon ODA is considered authoritative by many
other states and is frequently referred to by international authorities as well.
- ODA Accreditation Page
provides information and a list of accrediting agencies known to be unrecognized
- Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board List of Illegal Institutions and
provides a directory of unrecognized and fraudulent institutions know to operate
- Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board Degree Authorization Page
provides information on how institutions and programs are approved, how to avoid
diploma mills, and links to state directories and authorities.
- Wisconsin Education Approval Board Resources Page
provides extensive information on recognized institutions, fraudulent academic
credentials, diploma mills, and the legal process for approving a postsecondary
INTERNATIONAL INFORMATION RESOURCES
Both UNESCO and the Council of Europe (COE) have suffered
due to diploma mill and accreditation mill websites claiming that these
international organizations recognize institutions or accrediting bodies.
International organizations have no authority to do this, and mere affiliation
with such an organization does not in any way confer educational status or
recognition. Neither UNESCO nor the Council of Europe accredit or recognize
institutions of higher education, nor do they recognize or approve accrediting
several countries have published official warnings and/or lists of unrecognized
providers operating in their territory. These include:
OTHER INFORMATION RESOURCES
- CHEA Degree Mills Page
provides information and resources on diploma (degree) mills from the Council on
Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
- EAIE Diploma Mills Presentation
is a useful guide to resources as well as what to look for in diploma mill
websites and advertising, by Ann M. Koenig and various U.S. experts on academic
fraud. Presented at the EAIE annual conference in Basel, Switzerland, 2006.
- Dr. John Bear’s Guide on Degree.Net
is a detailed introduction to distance learning and the problem of distance
learning fraud by one of the leading private authorities on academic fraud and
- Buying a PhD from a University that Doesn’t Exist
is a detailed analysis of the fakery involved in sample online diploma mill
claims by Dr. George Gollin, a University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
professor of physics.
Potential problems with degree suppliers located in these states