Learn the warning signs and what to do if you have concerns
You hear about a private college, postsecondary school, or trade school where you don’t have to read textbooks, submit homework assignments, or take exams, but you still get credits and graduate. Sounds like a slam dunk, right?
But if it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is: Unregulated and fraudulent private schools—referred to as “diploma mills”—prey on eager students, taking your money and leaving you with nothing but a worthless diploma in return.
While these so-called schools cultivate a veneer of respectability, they are nothing more than run-of-the-mill scam artists. They operate without supervision of a state or professional agency and grant diplomas that are either flat-out fraudulent or, because of the lack of proper educational standards, worthless. Such “schools” are unaccredited, but they often claim accreditation by real-sounding nonrecognized or unapproved organizations set up as false fronts for scamming purposes.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
In researching distance-learning institutions, watch out for institutions that have no intention of providing instruction: They simply sell documents. Any time you don’t have to do schoolwork yet still receive credits, it’s a red flag that the school is probably a diploma mill. While it may be tempting to get a diploma for little or no effort, these credentials aren’t accepted by many companies. So, instead of having the training you need to begin your career and change your life, you’ll have a useless piece of paper and be out thousands of dollars—or even tens of thousands.
If your career goal requires you to have a license or certification, reach out to the licensing or certifying entity (like those overseen by the Department of Consumer Affairs [DCA]) and ask what is required for employment. If schools must be approved prior to their graduates being eligible for licensure or certification, ask for a list of approved schools in your community or in the area where you want to study.
HELP IS HERE
If you are concerned that a private college, postsecondary school, or trade school—whether online or in-person—may be a diploma mill, DCA’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) can help. You can file a complaint directly with BPPE so the Bureau can investigate the school, email email@example.com for assistance, or call BPPE toll-free at (888) 370-7589.
And before you sign that tuition check, verify the California private school you’re interested in plus its subject-matter program are approved to operate: Search BPPE’s list of approved private postsecondary education providers online anytime.
Related Reading: 5 Steps to Take if Your Private College Closes