Looking to take your career to the next level with some impressive credentials to add to your rsum?
Online degree programs are an emerging education trend and present an attractive education option for busy people who are looking to add experience and qualifications to their rsum.
The Sloan Consortium, the nation's largest association focused on online education, reported that in 2006 nearly 3.2 million college students were enrolled in at least one online course, up from 1.6 million in 2003.
Moreover, Eduventures, a leading education industry research firm, estimates that in 2008, one in 10 college students will be enrolled in an online university.
As convenient and popular as online education can be, though, the Better Business Bureau warns that some can also be a source of fraud and frustration for consumers.
In 2003, education industry experts estimated the existence of more than 400 diploma mills and 300 counterfeit diploma Web sites doing business of more than $500 million annually. What used to be small-time, "mom-and-pop" fraud, is now a professional criminal operation, having gone high-tech and global in nature according to federal law enforcement representatives.
Many of these fraudulent Web sites portray beautiful, picturesque campuses with old buildings and many students, when, in reality, these degrees could very possibly be printed from someone's basement.
Diploma mills are not accredited and students essentially pay for a baseless piece of paper. Many diploma mills offer degrees based on "life experience." It is true that accredited universities and colleges may grant credit based on some life experience. However, scams grant much, if not all of their credits based upon life experience, charging substantial sums and offering entire degrees for little actual coursework.
The Bureau reminds prospective students to watch for the following signs that their next degree could actually be coming from a diploma mill:
- Very little or no work needs to be completed in order to receive your degree.
- The institution offers deals if you sign up to receive more than one degree at a time, such as a bachelor's degree and a master's degree for one low price.
- The name of the program is very similar to the name of a very well-known and prestigious college or university.
- Addresses for administration buildings include P.O. boxes or suite numbers.
- Prices are stated per degree instead of per credit hour.
The most important step in choosing an online degree program is to make sure the college or university you are enrolling in is accredited from one of the six regional accreditation boards.
The U.S. Department of Education has a searchable database of accredited post-secondary schools at: ope.ed.gov/accreditation.You can also check out an online degree program's reputation and get more advice to help you make solid education decisions at www.bbb.org.
KELVIN COLLINS IS THE PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU OF CENTRAL GEORGIA & THE CSRA, WHICH SERVES 41 COUNTIES BETWEEN AUGUSTA AND MACON. CONTACT THE LOCAL BUREAU OFFICE AT (706) 210-7676 OR WWW.CSRA.BBB.ORG.