dcsimg
You are here:

The Online School Scams Keep on Coming

Online schools are fantastic. There are so many benefits of online schools that it's hard to know where to begin... that is, as long as the online school you pick is a good one. Unfortunately, every day more and more people get scammed by a booming underground industry of "colleges" that equate to nothing more than diploma mills devoid of content.

This week, ABC News investigates how online college scams have affected the lives of everyday people, and what led them to sign up in the first place. 59-year-old medical assistant Diane Cerulli, praised for years by friends and family for her knack with medicine, was drawn in by the promise of something more: "'I always wanted to be a doctor, and I thought this was a dream come true,' [she] said... After taking the multiple-choice test, Cerulli received a letter from Belford University, one of many online schools that purport to be accredited. It read: 'You are now a doctor. Diplomas and paperwork will be mailed to you after you pay $1,400 for the degree.'

"Cerulli said, 'Foolishly, I did that. I was told I could see patients and prescribe medicine. What was I thinking?'"

She might have been thinking about the overall prevalence of online colleges -- according to the article, a survey from the Sloan Consortium and Babson Survey Research Group recently displayed that "3.9 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in 2007, a 12 percent increase over the previous year." With that amount of students enrolling in -- or interested in -- the prospect of distance learning, there is no shortage of pickings for scam artists to prey on those uneducated in their methods.

So, how can you tell? For one thing, if the process looks to easy, it probably is. College is hard work, and there is no shortcut. "I knew something was wrong because the test was too simple," said Debra Harris to ABC News, upon completing an online test for a life experience-based high school diploma. "It was multiple choice, and if you didn't get it right, you could go back and do it again. Everybody passes." Another red flag: a P.O. Box for mailing, with a physical address in a different country or that can't be found at all. One college under investigation by the Better Business Bureau in the article had a mailing address in Arizona and a home office in Sonora, Mexico.

Most importantly: accreditation is key. Only accredited online schools will be recognized and accepted by reputable institutions, and only the U.S. Department of Education has the power to determine which accrediting organizations are valid in the United States. Without accreditation -- and valid accreditation at that, so do your research if the website says otherwise -- even colleges requiring minimal actual work may be a waste.

The Better Business Bureau may do its best to shut them down, but online school scammers will be around for as long as online schools continue to exist. That said, the best offense is a good defense. So do your research and know your red flags, and you can avoid becoming a statistic.

Search Schools

      
Matching School Ads
  • Syracuse University Computer Engineering

    Established in 1901, the College of Engineering and Computer Science has built a vibrant community of leaders with a reputation for responsiveness in meeting regional, national, and global needs.

    Programs

    • Master of Science in Computer Engineering

    Location: Online

    Syracuse University Computer Engineering Request Info »
  • Syracuse University Computer Science

    Established in 1901, the College of Engineering and Computer Science has built a vibrant community of leaders with a reputation for responsiveness in meeting regional, national, and global needs.

    Programs

    • MS in Computer Science
    Location:
    Syracuse: , Syracuse NY 13244
    Syracuse University Computer Science Request Info »
  • Syracuse Communications

    Communications@Syracuse is an online Master of Science in Communications from the world-renowned S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.
     

    Programs

    • Master of Science in Communications

    Location: Online

    Syracuse Communications Request Info »
  • Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University

    Located in the heart of Washington, D.C. the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University is dedicated to advancing the health of local, national and global communities.

    You need to have a Bachelor’s degree to be qualified for this school.

    Programs

    • Executive Master of Health Administration
    • Master of Public Health
    Location:
    Washington: 2121 I St NW,, Washington DC 20052
    Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University Request Info »
  • Simmons College School of Social Work

    Programs

    • Master of Social Work
    Location:
    Boston: 300 The Fenway, Boston MA 02115
    Simmons College School of Social Work Request Info »
  • Stratford Career Institute

    Earn Your Diploma from Home!

    Programs

    • Drug & Alcohol Treatment Specialist
    • Funeral Service Education
    • French as a Second Language
    • More...

    Location: Online

    Stratford Career Institute Request Info »
  • Simmons College Master of Public Health

    Simmons’ online Master of Public Health program, MPH@Simmons, is designed to give you the real-world skills you need to address health inequity on a local, national, and global scale. The MPH@Simmons program explores the core areas of public health: epidemiology, biostatistics, health policy and health services, environmental health, and social/behavioral health. Additionally, the practice-based curriculum incorporates courses specifically designed to help you develop leadership and advocacy skills.

    Programs

    • Master of Public Health
    Location:
    Boston: 300 The Fenway, Boston MA 02115
    Simmons College Master of Public Health Request Info »
  • Southern Methodist University

    Founded in 1911, Southern Methodist University (SMU) is a nationally ranked private university with seven degree-granting schools.

    Programs

    • M.S. in Data Science
    Location:
    Dallas: , Dallas TX 75202
    Southern Methodist University Request Info »
  • Nursing@USC

    Programs

    • Master of Science in Nursing for Aspiring Family Nurse Practitioners
    Location:
    Los Angeles: , Los Angeles CA 90007
    Nursing@USC Request Info »
  • New York University Speech Pathology

    Coming soon

    Programs

    • Master of Science in Communicative Sciences and Disorders
    Location:
    New York: , New York NY 10003
    New York University Speech Pathology Request Info »
  • Matching School Ads

    Quick School Search

    College & Career Search Tools

    • Careers: Unsure about your career path? Study profiles of hundreds of professions.

    • Interviews: Professors and deans sit down with our team to give you unique insights on college life.

    • Military Education: Find only Military friendly online schools and campuses.

    • Student Reviews: Know before you go. Read student reviews on over 2000 accredited colleges. Write your own experience.