Identify Degree & Accreditation Mills

Identifying diploma mills and accreditation mills is not easy. A number of features of diploma/degree mills are similar to familiar higher education institutions, and many of the features of accreditation mills are similar to well-known accrediting organizations. Nonetheless, prospective students and the public can look for several indicators that suggest an operation may be a degree mill or an accreditation mill. It is the presence of a number of these features taken together that should signal to students and the public that they may, indeed, be dealing with a "mill."

Review related Maine state statute language (PDF)

A series of questions follow to help determine whether a provider is a diploma mill or an accreditation mill. In each case, if the answers to a majority of the questions below are "yes," students and the public should take this as highly suggestive that they may be dealing with a mill. In this circumstance, students and the public may be best served by looking for alternatives for higher education and quality assurance.

 

Questions for a potential degree mill

  • Can degrees be purchased?
  • Is there a claim of accreditation when there is no evidence of this status?
  • Is there a claim of accreditation from a questionable accrediting organization?
  • Does the operation lack state or federal licensure or authority to operate?
  • Is little if any attendance required of students?
  • Are few assignments required for students to earn credits?
  • Is a very short period of time required to earn a degree?
  • Are degrees available based solely on experience or resume review?
  • Are there few requirements for graduation?
  • Does the operating charge very high fees as compared with average fees charged by higher education institutions?
  • Alternatively, is the fee so low that it does not appear to be related to the cost of providing legitimate education?
  • Does the operation fail to provide any information about the campus or business location or address and relies, e.g., only on a post office box?
  • Does the operation fail to provide a list of its faculty and their qualifications?
  • Does the operation have a name similar to other well-known colleges and universities?
  • Does the operation make claims in its publications for which there is no evidence?

 

Questions for a potential accreditation mill

  • Does the operation allow accreditation status to be purchased?
  • Does the operation publish lists of institutions or programs they claim to have accredited without institutions and programs knowing that they are listed or having been accredited?
  • Are high fees for accreditation required as compared to average fees from accrediting organizations?
  • Does the operation claim that it is recognized (by, e.g., USDE or CHEA) when it is not?
  • Are few if any standards for quality published by the operations?
  • Is a very short period of time required to achieve accredited status?
  • Are accreditation reviews routinely confined to submitting documents and do not include site visits or interviews of key personnel by the accrediting organization?
  • Is "permanent" accreditation granted without any requirement for subsequent periodic review?
  • Does the operation use organizational names similar to recognized accrediting organizations?
  • Does the operation make claims in its publications for which there is no evidence?