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7 Warning Signs an Online Degree Is a Scam

7 Warning Signs an Online Degree Is a Scam

U.S. News

Sarah Wood
February 6, 2023
Be wary of online programs that overpromise outcomes and lack accreditation information.
Online education offers flexible learning, allowing college students to balance work and family responsibilities while taking classes.
But with an influx of online learning options – prompted in part by the coronavirus pandemic – it may be difficult for applicants to distinguish between quality and scam degree programs.
“There are many online degree programs out there that prey on the uninformed and make them believe that this is a legitimate program that has quality academic courses, quality academic experiences and that their credits would be transferrable to another institution,” says Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. “And that’s just not the case.”
Below are seven warning signs that an online program may be a scam:
  • No accreditation status.
  • A fishy web address.
  • Limited information about academic quality.
  • No evidence of administrative or student services.
  • Pressure to enroll.
  • Promises of guaranteed outcomes.
  • No transparency about fees.
No Accreditation Status
There are several layers of verification for an online degree program that a potential student should take the time to research, experts say.
Every state has a licensing and authorization body that verifies a degree is awarded in “good stead with the authorization in that state,” says Leah K. Matthews, executive director of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, a national nonprofit organization that accredits distance education institutions. So students looking at a program offered at an online school in Virginia, for example, should find out if it’s listed on the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia’s database.
The next step is to confirm the degree program’s accreditation. Accreditors are recognized by either the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, known as CHEA.
Additionally, if a student plans to enter a field that requires a license to practice, it’s important to confirm that the program has been reviewed and approved by the licensing board entity in the state in which they plan to work.
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