What is a Diploma Mill?

Diploma mills are a pressing issue in higher education. Students fall victim to diploma mill scams everyday, leading to serious consequences and even legal trouble for “graduates”. When looking into online colleges, you may come across one of these scams without even realizing it. It’s extremely important to know what diploma mills are and how to avoid them.

What is a diploma mill?

A diploma mill offers students illegitimate degrees at a flat rate in a certain (often short) period of time, regardless of a student’s experience. They often masquerade as real universities, but do not actually hold accreditation according to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. 

These diploma mills are not real universities, and are instead designed to scam students by requiring a fee in exchange for a degree. Some diploma mills may even offer degrees based on a students’ life or work experience. This can be dangerous because legitimate colleges often operate in a similar way, but require approval and verification for prior student experience to be recognized.

To summarize, diploma mills are illegitimate, fake universities promising degrees in exchange for a fixed fee in order to scam people out of time and money.

How to Identify a Diploma Mill

Diploma mills can (and often do) present as a real university with accredited programs. They are also almost always distance schools, or online only. The easiest way to identify a diploma mill from a legitimate university is to look at accreditation. Most universities show their accreditation on their website, and diploma mills will often feature a fake accreditation on theirs. It’s important to fact-check whether a university is actually accredited or not. You can do this by searching for the university in the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website database. Pay attention to the “fine print” of any potential university and look out for these red flags that diploma mills often exhibit:

  • Not accredited by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation
  • Offers to give you a degree in a short amount of time, often weeks
  • Makes you pay a flat rate in exchange for a degree
  • Doesn’t require transcripts
  • Their website does not display any contact information or physical address, despite being an online university

The whole point of these diploma mills is to appear as a legitimate university. To someone who may not be aware of this scam or is unfamiliar with higher education institutions, it can be extremely difficult to tell the difference between legitimate and illegitimate universities. This is why it is important to do your due diligence when researching online universities. It is always a good idea to verify whether a school is actually accredited or not. Keep in mind that if an online university appears too good to be true, it probably is. Always be wary of these kinds of concepts and research thoroughly before providing payment information.