Tips to Avoid Online Education Scams
Read more by Christine A. Shelly at Google+
Nobody wants to be called a fake or handed a phony product. Especially when your future is at stake. Phony diplomas can cost you your job, your reputation, and your future earning power. You’ve decided to pursue an online degree – but how can you tell which schools are legitimate and which could cost you more than you bargained for? Service members, veterans and their families can protect themselves while looking for a degree program by checking for these signs:
#1- You’ve checked the U.S. Department of Education accredited schools database and your school isn’t listed.
Military education benefits and federal student aid packages require the student to be enrolled at an accredited institution. Bogus schools are more concerned with collecting your money than they are with complying with accreditation standards or delivering quality education.
#2 – The school website, brochure, ad (or all three) make the promise of a degree in exchange for very little work, very little interaction, and a flat rate fee.
If their slogan is “Nobody turned down!” you want to turn the other direction. A degree that’s worth anything will require hard work. It’s not just handed out to anyone and everyone. Gaining knowledge, insight and experience is far more than a simple point and click consumer transaction. Few legitimate institutions charge by the degree.
#3 – They ask you for your bank account information.
A few years back, there were some schools whose “financial aid” departments contacted students and offered them scholarships or grants to attend. All they required in exchange, they said, was the student’s bank account information in order to process an administrative fee. Other schools will invite students to a mandatory financial aid “seminar,” that wind up being high-pressure sales pitches with promises of big scholarship checks for a small fee.
These schools should not only be avoided, they should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.
#4 – The school has a name that is strikingly similar to a Big Name school.
Disreputable schools often rely on name recognition to lure students into their unaccredited programs. But where a degree from Columbia University in Missouri carries weight, a degree from Columbia State University in Louisiana does not. In fact, Columbia State University in Louisiana was closed due to court order.
When in doubt, contact your state (or the state where the school is located) attorney general’s office and confirm that it is 1) a legitimate business in good standing and 2) accredited by an accreditation body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
You’ve worked hard for your reputation. Protect it by selecting a reputable school. Do your research, ask questions, rely on people you know you can trust — and trust your gut. When in doubt, check out the school finder at militaryauthority.com — that’s a good place to start.
Ms. Shelly has spent more than a decade working in higher education. She currently serves as executive vice president for Grantham Education Corporation. Ms. Shelly is passionate about changing lives – about making college education accessible and affordable to more people and preparing students and graduates for success.