SolveYourProblem Article Series: Online Degrees
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     7 Ways To Spot a Phony Online University

Today, companies, some countries, and institutions do much to promote the convenient lifestyle. Thanks to online shopping and banking, virtual job applications, and email correspondence, much of what you have to do in a typical business day can be done over the Internet with the click of a button.

Earning a college degree is one of the latest luxuries made convenient. It is now possible to earn a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree online, without ever setting foot in a physical college.

But are these online universities legitimate? While some can count for continuing education, just as many are phony.

The motivation of phony online universities is to either sell a diploma or quickly grant you a degree with little to no coursework. These companies market their services toward the ignorant and uninformed—as well as those aspiring students without ethics.

Consider seven top ways to spot phony online universities.

One: Does it sound too good to be true? It probably is. Some schools promise to sell you a bachelor’s or master’s degree based on what you have already learned through life experience. While this might be a fair concept, unfortunately, all that is required to earn this degree is a short email to the staff explaining what entitles you to it, as well as a big payment. No other investigation is done, nor any references taken. Selling bogus diplomas will not necessarily discredit them—the phony universities—but it will reflect badly on the graduate once it is discovered he or she paid for a degree that was not earned.

Two: Is the school accredited? In the United States, the Council for Higher Education Accreditations (CHEA) is an association of 3000 degree granting colleges and universities and commissions its six agencies to evaluate the standards of an institution every few years. To be accredited by this council, means that the degrees are transferable to other universities. The Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) is another agency that accredits schools and is recognized by the federal Department of Education. Consider the fact that there are many schools that are not accredited, yet are seen as legitimate, and there are also schools that claim to be accredited but are phony. Careful research (all of which can be done online) is required to sort through these and choose the real institutions over the deceptive ones.

Three: Does the school excessively advertise? Phony universities, or diploma mills, are in the business of making money fast. Therefore, many phony universities will advertise in major publications or popular websites promising anything from a BA to a PHD in less than a month. Any school that entices you with such absurd promises is just trying to make a fast buck.

Four: Tricky or vague wording. Many phony universities will claim accreditation from a nonexistent agency or from a foreign government. These claims of accreditation are vague and amount to self-accreditation—not in the least verifiable. Sometimes investigating the legitimacy of a school’s accreditation can be as simple as typing the name into a Google search.

Five: State skipping. If a university does not allow students from certain states enrollment, then there’s a good chance state law has caught on to the diploma mill’s methods. Sometimes universities start skipping states and began to move their location from one to the other, hoping to seek loopholes in new territory. Pay close attention to the location of the headquarters and the website name. If you notice over a period of time any changes, then there is reason to be suspicious.

Six: Conspicuous contact information. If the only method of contact is a PO Box address, email address, or an answering service, then it’s possible there is no living human staff ready to defend the school’s integrity. Some schools don’t offer a personal reply—or a return email address at all. If the school can’t even face a potential student via email, then they have something to hide.

Seven: How desperate are they? Many phony universities will do anything to recruit (deceive) a new paying student. Some universities will purposely resemble reputable universities or misspell the name. Some will post pictures of an academic building claiming it to be theirs, when in actuality it belongs to another school. Some will offer special “deals” on buying master’s degrees or PhDs and continue to SPAM you if you don’t buy. If a school insists upon recruiting you and consistently badgers you with email, then it’s very possible they need you a lot more than you need them.

There are more than seven top ways to spot them, of course. In short, doing a thorough investigation of a school is the best way to handle any suspicions.

Other top ways to spot them can be found online; many websites are devoted to researching phony universities. Be sure and research any school extensively before investing thousands of dollars in a degree that might not be worth anything in the real world.

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