THE MAGAZINE

Fighting Diploma Mills By Degrees

Surely you’ve heard of the University of Berkeley, Hamilton University, St. Regis University, and the American University of London. Or have you? In fact, these schools are suspected “diploma mills”—colleges and universities offering worthless degrees that require no work. They use familiar sounding names intended to make prospective employers mistake them for real institutions, such as the University of California at Berkeley, Hamilton College, Regis University, and the American University in London. The problem came to the fore when it was found that many government workers, including staff in the Department of Homeland Security, had these phony credentials, prompting Congress to hold a series of hearings. To help rid higher education of this scourge, the Department of Education has put online a searchable database of accredited schools. By entering a school name into the database, a user can determine whether that school is accredited by an organization recognized by the federal government. Employers can perform online sleuthing. Oregon hosts a database of schools whose degrees it considers invalid. Michigan has a site listing schools not accredited by an authorized body of the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Geteducated.com offers a free service called the “Diploma Mill Police,” which verifies accreditation of online and distance-learning college degrees.

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