BBB warns your online diploma could be a worthless piece of paper
From press release
It’s time to head back to school for many students. However, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers about online programs that offer fast and easy high school diplomas or college degrees.
Having a diploma or an advanced degree is one way to stand out from the crowd in these tough economic times when millions struggle to find a job. But some students have found out the hard way that the diploma they thought they earned online isn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
Distance learning and online-based classes have become an increasingly popular option for students of all ages. Unfortunately, not all institutions offering online diplomas or degrees are legitimate, and individuals looking to get ahead are being duped by diploma mills.
Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the BBB serving Chicago and northern Illinois, said: “Education is one of the keys to advancing in life. Having a diploma or advanced degree can certainly make a difference when it comes to getting into college or landing a higher-paying job. While the Internet facilitates learning through online curriculum, it also makes it easier for scammers to shill their phony high school diplomas and college degrees.”
One such victim, Teresa Freeman of Woodstock, Ill., signed up for culinary school with Penn Foster Career School in Pennsylvania: “I was looking for a culinary school in my area, and came across Penn Foster online. I took around half the classes, but it was hard to know if I was doing things right since I did not get feedback. I called restaurants in my area to see if this would count for any kind of experience in the field. They said that they had never even heard of the school. I quit after taking around half the classes and tried to get a refund. They refused. I complained to the BBB, and the BBB, the school and I reached an agreement that they would refund half of my money. They did not live up to the agreement—they placed me for collection, and I am still paying what they say I owe.”
Another victim, Crystal Petrungaro from Chicago, enrolled in Vencer High School Online, also known as Jefferson High School Online. On her behalf, her mother, Patricia, stated: “My daughter Crystal is handicapped and in a wheelchair. She wanted a high school diploma so that she could go to college and then work with handicapped kids. She registered online and took a brief test, but no online coursework. They sent her a ‘diploma,’ but it turns out that they were not accredited, so it is worthless, and she still can’t go to college.”
BBB cites the following red flags to help identify diploma mills:
• Degrees or diplomas are awarded based on “life experience” and require very little or no work.
• The institution guarantees you will receive a degree or diploma within a few days, weeks or months.
• The institution offers deals if you sign up to receive more than one degree at a time, such as a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree for one low price.
• Addresses for administration buildings include P.O. boxes or suite numbers.
• Prices are stated per degree instead of per credit hour.
• Go to www.bbb.org to look up Reliability Reports of online schools for free before enrolling.
Always check the organization out with your BBB online at www.bbb.org and make sure the college or university you are enrolling in is accredited from one of the six regional accreditation boards. The U.S. Department of Education has a searchable database of accredited post-secondary schools at http://ope.ed.govaccreditation.
From the September 9-15, 2009 issue
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