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How Can I Tell if a Degree Program is Legitimate or a Scam?

Wes Creel

When looking online for degree programs, it’s important to watch out for scams and degree programs that sound too good to be true. Our list of Abound schools can help you along the way, but if you do your own research, watch out for triggers that could warn of a scam.

Accreditation With a Fake Agency

One of the easiest ways to root out a scam is to look for its accreditation. Accredited colleges go through a rigorous process to make sure students are receiving a quality education. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education offer databases of accredited schools.

Pushy Advertising or “Advisors”

If you’re being called, emailed, or pushed in any way to pay money to begin your degree program, you’re likely dealing with a degree mill or scam of some sort. Be wary of people and schools that push you to sign-up.

Promise That You’ll Have a Degree in Days, Weeks, or Months

If it seems too good to be true, it is. Any promise that your degree will arrive in the mail in a few days, weeks, or months, is a scam. This is what we call a degree mill. If you want a real degree, there will be work. All of these scams can be discouraging to read about, but have you heard about the dog who got his MBA? Yep, we’re serious.

There’s No Student Services

All legitimate college programs offer student services. Student services are programs like financial aid, a library, a writing center, tutoring, career services, or child care. If none of those are available, it’s likely the school you’re researching is a scam.

The College is For-Profit

This isn’t a guarantee of a scam, but it means you should definitely look closer. If you do think the for-profit school is legitimate, also check online reviews. It’s important that you not only receive your degree, but that you have a degree from a respected university.

The Website URL Doesn’t End in .edu

If the website doesn’t end in .edu, you’re definitely dealing with a scam. Now, don’t get too confident in the .edu. Some scam schools also use the .edu at the end of their web address. This isn’t a guarantee that a school is legitimate, but not having it definitely indicates a scam.

You Can’t Find a Business or Campus Address

If you can’t find an address for the school, there’s a major chance that it’s a scam. If all you can find is an email address, yep, you’ve got a degree mill on your hands.

You’re Required to Pay a Lot of Money Up Front

If the school requires a large, up front payment, check for other signs that the school is a scam. A few legitimate programs ask for a large, upfront payment, such as CBE programs. A request for a large payment should be a warning sign that you need to investigate the legitimacy of the program before making the payment.

As well, if your degree will be paid in a flat fee payment, you’re likely dealing with a degree mill. Legitimate programs charge by the hour, credit, or class.

Familiar Name, but Not Quite Right

If the name sounds familiar, but not quite right, you’ve probably got a scam on your hands. Many fake degree programs create similar sounding names and professional websites in the hopes of tricking unsuspecting students.

Our goal at Abound is to help you graduate and receive a degree as an adult learner. With the number of adults going back to school dramatically growing every year, there are more and more programs designed for people like you. We want to help you find the best programs and help you complete the program as quickly and inexpensively as possible.

If you’re researching college programs for adult students, be sure to look at Abound’s list of vetted schools. You might just find the one that’s perfect for you.

More Helpful Resources:

Financial Aid: Yes, you can get a scholarship!

Getting College Credit for Life Experience You Already Have

6 Reasons to Pursue a Bachelor’s After Earning Your Associate’s Degree

Employer Assisted Tuition: 8 Strategies to Persuade Your Boss

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links to products and services. We may receive commissions for purchases made through these links.

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