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Home > Resources > College Prep > Choosing the Right School > Don't Be Fooled By Cheap Imitations - Exploring Degree Mills

Don't Be Fooled By Cheap Imitations - Exploring Degree Mills

Employers all over the nation are running headfirst into a major problem—degree mills. Degree mills are businesses that specialize in manufacturing false credentials for any customers who can foot the bill—no experience, education, or time commitment required. Though the government does attempt to control the propagation of these counterfeit degrees, degree mills can be hard to locate because they are primarily virtual companies with no office space outside of their P.O. Box.

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Customers pay anywhere from $50 to $5,000 (depending on the major) for an impressive watermarked set of transcripts from an institution of their choice. Most degree mills maintain that the diplomas available on their site are offered through accredited universities. Not so. The so called ‘universities,’ that issue these degrees are never accredited institutions recognized by the federal government. And the worst part? The individuals who purchase these degrees go on to compete in the job market armed with a counterfeit degree and not a single drop of experience. Employers typically aren’t aware that they’ve been duped by a job applicant until long after the individual has been hired. This can be particularly dangerous, particularly if the swindler pursues a career in a highly specialized field like oral surgery.

The bottom line: no matter how much you pay for the transcripts, a degree is still counterfeit if you haven’t completed the appropriate coursework.

How do degree mills affect me?

Quite simply, they reduce your chances of getting that job that you went to college to prepare for. This phenomenon has a name: degree inflation. Every year degree mills—a thriving billion dollar industry—manufacture credentials for increasing numbers of individuals. As job applicants flood the market with counterfeit degrees, they reduce the significance of the bachelors, masters, and even the doctorates degree that you have worked so hard to earn. In the long run, each and every person will pay for the price for someone else’s bogus degree. Be a part of the solution: work for your degree and earn it from a legitimately accredited institution. If counterfeit degrees continue to saturate our market and remain undetected by employers, it won’t be long until our wages and the number of available positions begins to decrease.

How to detect a degree mill

Degrees mills aren’t hard to find—just search ‘instant degree’ on Google—and you’ll likely turn up hundreds of examples. Generally, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! Slogans to look out for

  • "We offer credential verification"

    Degree mills are known for offering credential verification for customers who purchase a diploma package from their company. This statement should serve as a warning sign. If you do come across it while browsing through a site use caution before enrolling in any "classes".
  • "Tell us about your life experience. Earn a degree today"

    If you come across a site that allows you to purchase a diploma in exchange for life experience, you’re at a degree mill. Period. Some legitimate institutions might allow you to earn credit for a course by testing out of it, but they don’t allow you to submit a two-page summary of ‘qualifying’ life experience and earn a degree overnight.

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