School or Scam?

So you found what seems like a good on-line education program. The price is right, the coursework seems like something you can handle, and they offer some good perks. But maybe those perks are too good. Maybe this seems a little too easy. Wait a second, they offer college credit for “life experience” if you just write an essay about your life? And now that you think about it, the prices seem suspiciously low.

School or scam? photo by Images_of_Money

So how do you know for sure? With the myriad scams on the internet, it’s always best to do your research for submitting any information at all to any website.

Here are a few things to look for:

They charge tuition for a degree, not per course, semester, credit hour. This is a huge red flag. It indicates they want to sell you a degree, not a valid education.

The school has only been recently established. Or if the school has recently changed its name, this just as suspicious.

They do not require school transcripts or test scores as part of your application. Most on-line schools and programs are not picky. They will accept you with low test scores, or with a terrible grade point average. But if they don’t even ask, that means they don’t care about what education you have, which strongly implies they have no interest in your continued education. What they probably care about is getting your money, which brings me to…

Part of the criteria for admission to the school is a valid credit card. I think this speaks for itself.

But the most important is to make sure the school is accredited. If the schools claims it is indeed accredited, then verify that from two independent sources. And to be extra thorough, verify that the agency who accredited the school is itself a valid and recognized agency. Which can be done at the Council on Higher Education Accreditation.

One excellent way you can check the legitimacy of an on-line degree program is to call the registrar’s office of an established local university (and by local I mean somewhere in your state, a school you know is legitimate). Ask the university personnel about the on-line school, and specifically find out if credits you earn on-line will be able to transfer to the local university.

If the local school will not accept the on-line credits from that institution, chances are the on-line school is a scam, or at the very least not accredited. For the sake of being thorough, one can call a second university and ask the same question. But once you have established that your on-line credits would not carry over to another university, you have also established that any degree you earn from that on-line school would have no validity.

And if you have a degree that isn’t valid, then you paid a lot of money for nothing.

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