The ethics of "diploma mills"

I really wasn’t sure where to put this, but here goes. I’ve been reading a lot about “diploma mills,” or institutions that issue academic diplomas to people without being officially accredited (or in some cases, creating their own phone accreditation systems.) The University of Phoenix is sometimes accused of being a diploma mill but if you read that Wiki page there are some far more egregious offenders. Some of them basically just give you the “degree” in exchange for money, without any classes at all. Others award it to you based on “life experience,” or make you buy a bunch of textbooks and supplies but don’t require you to actually submit any work.

How can these people live with themselves? The people who are involved in this enterprise? It seems like a blatant deception, both on the part of the “students” and on the part of whoever might be suckered into believing that the “graduates” of this institution have genuine degrees, and hence giving them their trust. Are they just really greedy, soulless people, or do they think they are genuinely benefiting others by offering this service?

For $50 I’ll give you an answer. Framed and ready to hang on the wall.

University of Phoenix is far and away a more credible institution than a diploma mill.

I don’t know how they can live with themselves. I do know that laws for various licenses and certificates require an earned degree from a regionally accredited institution.

The only reason people don’t like diploma mills is that they are ignorant about how good they are. They are much better than regular schools in all respects.

Shagnasty - Ph.D., MD, MA, ED.d, Esquire

I think it’s important to distinguish between non-accredited schools and “diploma mills”, so I’m glad you did that in your OP. To add to that, accreditation is a huge undertaking for a new or small school, and it’s incredibly expensive, and comes with all sorts of red tape and restrictions that don’t always benefit the students. For example, for about 5 years I helped to run a small (fewer than 100 students) school teaching medicinal herbalism and massage therapy. All the students were adults, classes ran for three hours at night with no more than 25 students in at once, the teachers were all licensed acupuncturists certified in first aid or MDs. And yet to seek accreditation, we had to have a full time School Nurse on the payroll. :confused: It was a ridiculous requirement, not remotely necessary for student safety in our particular case, but there was simply no getting around it. The salary of a full time nurse would have meant increasing tuition by over 20% for each student. So we decided not to seek accreditation, and instead use the funds to keep our tuition as low as possible and pay for more supplies and better teachers. Seeking accreditation would have *lowered *the quality of our educational program.

My junior college taught for over 30 years before they were financially well off enough to afford the accreditation process. Perfectly good classes, classrooms and curricula, but they didn’t have a spare $100,000 laying around. They were part of a reciprocal agreement with other schools in the state to treat their classes as if they were accredited (so your hours there were good anywhere in Illinois) but they couldn’t call them “credits.” After accreditation, you got 3 credits instead of 45 hours for an English 101 class, but that was the only change most of the students saw.

But yeah, diploma mills are assholes. Not just because they’re cheating their “students” out of education and skills, but because they give perfectly good non-accredited schools a bad name.

No, this is not always true. You have to have earned a certificate or degree (depending on the field) from a *state approved *school, but often accreditation isn’t a requirement.

The school I ran was state approved, with state approved programs, but it was not accredited. And if I had a quarter for every time I had to explain the difference to a confused applicant…

They were a diploma mill or borderline diploma mill at one point. They’ve done a lot of work to legitimize themselves but I know a lot of people who went there in the past and feel very burnt and bitter towards the experience. I was actually just talking to someone Saturday night who went there several years ago and he said it was very expensive and you don’t learn anything, but it was pretty much impossible to fail a class. I’ve met a few of their cheerleaders but I’ve also met enough former students singing the same negative songs about them that I feel they probably earned their lousy reputation.

When I (very briefly, heh) looked into being commissioned as a Marine Corps officer, all the literature was very specific that your degree needed to be from an accredited school, and when I met with a recruiter he reiterated this 2 or 3 times. Maybe they were having a wave of diploma mill applicants at the time or something. I was attending an accredited school at the time so I didn’t know why he kept saying that.

I’m bumping this in the hopes that it will generate more discussion. If not, whatever. Any other thoughts?

Do people truthfully list the name of the “institution” from which they received their degree? I know my father says they tend to pitch resumes of people with degrees from U of Phoenix. I’m assuming people don’t lie (otherwise they’d just lie about having a degree), but that employers don’t check up on schools.

On resumes? Of course you list the school. I assume you could probably lie about most degrees at most jobs, but some check up. When I worked for Bear Stearns they verified everything we listed on our resumes including our damn high school diplomas. Only employer I’ve ever had that did that. One lady who started at the same time as me graduated pre-computers and her high school (with paper records) had since burned down. It took them over a year to sort it out and she was in serious danger of being let go over it a few times, even though they had no problem verifying her college degree from a major state university. Jerks.

Lot of good it did them, too. :wink:

My son-in-law’s sister has been taking University of Phoenix classes, and my observation is that the fault lies with her, not them. They may well be set up to recruit the kind of people who start classes, pay them, and never quite finish, but our community colleges have that kind of person also. It’s very cheap to attend, so it’s not a ripoff.

To answer the OP, I suspect some might feel justified in ripping off people who are trying to cheat the system by getting a fake degree in the first place. No one forces these people to pay for a worthless piece of paper, and any business who doesn’t check the legitimacy of the degree deserves what they get. Maybe some honestly feel that someone should get a degree for “life experience” and might be bitter at real universities rejecting them. But that might be excessively charitable.

Ugh, I work in the brokerage industry and yes, they verify everything. That background check is tough.

I am a hiring manger and also a school snob. A resume from the University of Phoenix will get pitched so fast that it could cut someones head off. Ironically, I think it is a legitimate degree. I want any potential employee to have a traditional degree from a good school that includes living on campus for a while. That is an extremely important part of college as well.

As soon as you talk about “taking classes” or “went there,” you’re already light-years beyond a true diploma mill. I get regular offers for doctorates based on my previous life ex;perience. When I respond that I worked at McDonald’s and that my friends confide in me, they offer me a doctorate in Psychology. Then I turn them in to the American Psychological Association’s ethics office.