BBB warns students, parents to be wary of worthless online diplo - WFSB 3 Connecticut

BBB warns students, parents to be wary of worthless online diplomas

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(MGN photo) (MGN photo)

Consumer safety advocates are urging students and parents to be wary of some online schools.

The Connecticut Better Business Bureau said students should carefully research those high schools before registering to avoid "diploma mills."

"Online learning is a significant breakthrough in education because of the freedom it offers," said Howard Schwartz, Connecticut BBB spokesperson. "Unfortunately, the first lesson can be a bitter one if you find out your diploma is worthless."

The warning is in light of actions taken by the Federal Trade Commission against businesses with names like West Madison Falls High School, Columbia Northern High School, Stafford High School and others.

The FTC said in federal court filings that the companies deceive students about their schools' legitimacy and charge customers between $135 and $349 for "GED" and "GED online" diplomas.

Court documents claim the curriculum for each "school" consisted of four unmonitored, multiple choice tests that required 70 percent to pass. If students failed, they were allowed to retake it with the correct answers highlighted.

Investigators said that schools claimed to be accredited by bodies that don't exist.

Students eventually learned that their diplomas were worthless when they applied for jobs, higher education or the military.

In a similar case, the FTC filed a suit against DeVry University for deceiving consumers about the likelihood that graduates would find jobs in their fields and earn a higher salary than graduates with Bachelor's degrees from other schools.

Here are some red flags that may indicate that the school is a "diploma mill":

  • Degrees or diplomas are awarded based on "life experience" and require very little or no work.
  • The institution guarantees a degree within a few days, weeks or months.
  • The school offers deals for students who sign up to receive more than one degree at a time, such as one low price for Bachelor's and Master's degrees.
  • Addresses for administration buildings are post office boxes or suite numbers.
  • Prices are based per degree rather than per credit hour.
  • The school claims to be affiliated with the federal government.

Students and parents can also check the accreditation of a school on the U.S. Department of Education's website here.

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