Thursday, January 7, 2010

By Mary Jackson

As the demand for the online Bachelor degree rises, so do the number of fake colleges and universities. Some actually offer diplomas for sale to potential customers through bulk emails. However, many take advantage of innocent and unsuspecting students by offering lower than normal tuition fees, credit for life experiences, no tests, and an easy road to that coveted diploma. If it sounds too good to be true, it generally is the case.

Therefore, with all the confusion generated, how can students sieve out the genuine from the bogus? This may be especially difficult for distance learning programs when students practically make their choices based on what is shown on a website. In many cases, especially for international students, it may not be feasible to visit the physical site of a college before enrolling. With this, making choices will really depend on the appearance and content of a website, which sometimes may not be an accurate judge of the creditability of a college.

The first thing to do is to verify the type of accreditation the college claims to have. Only 6 government agencies have been given the authority by the U.S. Department of Education, to award accreditation to colleges and universities offering online Bachelor degrees. Therefore, if a site brags about worldwide or nationwide accreditation, beware. Unless they specifically name the agency, chances are they are not a legitimate institution of higher education.

The six accreditation agencies given the authority to grant college and university accreditation are entrusted with governing the institutions within their geographical section of the United States as follows: New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), North Central Association of Schools and Colleges (NCA), Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA), Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS), Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NWCCU). With specific states for each agency, it is easier to check whether an online learning facility is accredited and registered.

If a university sends out mass e-mailings offering on online Bachelor degrees, Master's Degree, and even Doctorate degrees for a fixed rate, it is a sure sign the result will be a bogus degree. Course credits for such a degree may include such strange elements as: credit for life experiences, work experience, previous educational background, workshops, community services, travel, and books read in the past. To further confuse the issue, fake accrediting URLS are set up to prove accreditation, but unless it is from one of the 6 agencies endorsed by the Department of Education, the award is most likely phony. The unscrupulous institutions depend on the desperation of people who do not have the time, or the money, to earn a valid degree. Nevertheless, without that all-important diploma, good jobs are impossible to find.

In short, with the plethora of bogus degrees already causing employers to question online education, make sure your online Bachelor degree is earned from a college or university accredited by one of the six agencies endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education.

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