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Identifying Diploma Mills

Date Published: September 16, 2021 | Last Updated:September 15, 2023 | By Accurate Background
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Online schools and distance learning courses are becoming increasingly popular with adults who want to earn their higher education degree with more ease and convenience than in a traditional school environment. But diploma mills are cashing in on this popularity, offering sometimes-worthless degrees, which can present a problem for employers trying to verify an applicant’s or employee’s degree. 

What is a Diploma Mill?

Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines a diploma mill as “an institution of higher education operating without supervision of a state or professional agency and granting diplomas which are either fraudulent or, because of the lack of proper standards, worthless.” 

Diploma mills sometimes also grant false high school diplomas and GEDs.

It’s important for employers to do everything in their power to avoid hiring someone with a false diploma. With education verification, employers can identify “fake” degrees awarded by diploma mills and avoid any risks that come with hiring employees with falsified credentials.

Recruit Quality Candidates with Education Verification

Every organization puts a lot of time, money, and resources into each new hire. Education verification can help you ensure that every new hire is worth the investment and will make a positive impact on your company. One of the largest benefits of education verification is the ability to confirm that your candidates possess the academic requirements or any additional certificates and licenses needed for the job. This is especially important for certain roles in industries such as healthcare and finance. 

Trust and transparency are wellknown characteristics of every successful work environment. Education verification confirms that each employee hired has been honest about their educational background, which is a great indicator of integrity and honesty. You can also feel confident about additional investments into your employees such as pay raises or tuition assistance, knowing that they have earned it. 

Education Verification is Worth the Minimal Wait

In this tight labor market, you may feel rushed or desperate to fill your company’s open roles. However, it’s imperative that you don’t cut corners. Education verification is an important step in the screening process and can help you make the best hiring decision and protect your company. 

As an organization, you want to ensure that your employees have the right education and experience to carry out their designated duties and tasks. Skipping this crucial step can result in hiring candidates who are not qualified or trustworthy, risks to your customers and other employees, lawsuits, and other catastrophes. 

If you’re worried that an educational background check may hold up your hiring process, the truth is that they usually don’t take as long as you may think. When choosing a reputable screening provider such as Accurate for education verification, the process can be completed in as little as three days. This will ensure that every candidate has the necessary education and background, while optimizing your hiring process.

How to Spot a Diploma Mill

Diploma mills have distinct characteristics that set them apart from nationally accredited schools and universities. Employers need to watch for the following red flags when verifying a degree or diploma:

Degrees can be earned in a significantly shorter time than a traditional school.

Diploma mills advertise their degree can be earned in as little as a few days to a few months. There are also no classes or exams to earn this degree. One red flag to watch out for is if your candidate has earned their degree in less time than it takes to typically earn a diploma. An online degree earned from an accredited college takes between two to five years depending on the type of degree. 

Tuition is calculated per degree.

Degrees from diploma mills can range from $50 to $5,000 for a high school diploma up to a doctorate. This “lump-sum” form of payment is a quick way for diploma mills to receive money from customers. Accredited schools charge by the course or unit.

The diploma mill’s name is similar to the name of a well-known accredited school.

Diploma mills are well known for using names that are similar to real, accredited universities. This is done intentionally to trick consumers into thinking they’re a legitimate institution. The good news is that you can check websites such as GetEducated.com to ensure if the school is phony or an accredited school.  

The degree awarded is based on criteria unrelated to academics.

To receive entrance into a university or college, students will have to submit different documents such as school transcripts, standardized test scores, letters of reference, and more. Diploma mills don’t care about these different factors. Some diploma mills review a resume, transferring life and work experience into the entire degree, without any coursework. Others may require a short exam or essay to be submitted. Although many universities do provide credits for students receiving career experience, it is not what the entirety of the degree is based on. 

The school is not accredited by a national or regional accreditation agency.

Students who are in the process of applying to universities are usually encouraged to apply to accredited universities. This is because an accredited university or college provides you with a high-quality education and degree. Unfortunately, many of these diploma mills are not accredited by a national or regional accreditation agency. 

Or on the other hand, they may provide a long list of accreditations that sound authentic but aren’t. Diploma mills will claim to be accredited by accrediting agencies that appear to be legitimate but are phony. An Accreditation is only valid if it is recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Accreditation.

Most diploma mills offer a way to verify the degree and even provide an authentic looking degree on high-quality paper with official-looking seals. 

Some diploma mills were issued .edu web address before the U.S. Department of Commerce created its current requirements, so a .edu web address is not enough evidence to determine authenticity. If there is any doubt regarding the credibility of a degree or school, consult the U.S. Department of Education’s website. The site provides a list of schools that are recognized as nationally accredited institutes and additional information about diploma mills.

What Can You Verify with Education Verification?

An educational background check can help you quickly confirm the following information:

  • Degrees earned
  • Schools attended
  • Dates of attendance
  • Certificates and licenses

Accurate Background educational background check service can provide your hiring team with all the information needed quickly and efficiently. Our services verify the candidate’s education to confirm the degree earned, certificates and licenses, dates of attendance, and more. 

Accurate’s integration with the National student Clearinghouse ensures accuracy and reduces time spent to receive confirmation. Contact us to learn how the Accurate team can help you hire the right applicant for your company today.


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