Degree/Diploma Mills and Accreditation Mills

Degree/Diploma Mills are organizations whose only purpose is to take your money. They are "dubious providers of educational offerings or operations that offer certificates and degrees that are considered bogus".

Accreditation Mills are "dubious providers of accreditation and quality assurance or operations that offer a certification of quality of institutions that is considered bogus".

Before you respond to any school’s ads or offers make sure the school is legitimate by checking the Colorado Commission on Higher Education web site that lists all institutions authorized to operate within the State of Colorado. Legitimate schools will also identify the association from which they have received accreditation. Legitimate accrediting associations can be identified by the US Department of Education and the higher education authority in each of the fifty states.

Scam schools may claim to be "accredited." Most legitimate schools are approved by a state agency, like the Colorado Commission on Higher Education and/or an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education. Your first step is to ask. "Is the school accredited or state approved?"

What follows is a series of questions developed by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to help determine whether an institution is a diploma/degree mill or an accreditation mill. In each case, if you answer "yes" to the majority of questions, students and the public should take this as highly suggestive that they may be dealing with a "mill".

Diploma/Degree Mills

  • Can degrees be purchased?
  • Is there a claim of accreditation when there is no evidence of this status?
  • Is there a claim of accreditation from a questionable accrediting organization?
  • Does this operation lack state or federal licensure or authority to operate?
  • Is little, if any, attendance required of students?
  • Are few assignments required for students to earn credits?
  • Is a very short period of time required to earn a degree?
  • Are degrees available based solely on experience or resume review?
  • Are there few requirements for graduation?
  • Does the operation charge very high fees as compared with average fees charged by higher education institutions?
  • Alternatively, is the fee so low that it does not appear to be related to the cost of providing legitimate education?
  • Does the operation fail to provide any information about a campus or business location or address and relies, e.g., only on a post office box?
  • Does the operation fail to provide a list of its faculty and their qualifications?
  • Does the operation have a name similar to other well-known colleges and universities?
  • Does the operation make claims in its publications for which there is no evidence?

Accreditation Mills

  • Does the operation allow accredited status to be purchased?
  • Does the operation publish lists of institutions or programs they claim to have accredited without institutions and programs knowing that they are listed or have been accredited?
  • Are high fees for accreditation required as compared to average fees from accrediting organizations?
  • Does the operation claim that it is recognized (by e.g., USDE or CHEA) when it is not?
  • Are few if any standards for quality published by the operation?
  • Is a very short period of time required to achieve accredited status?
  • Are accreditation reviews routinely confined to submitting documents and do not include site visits or interviews of key personnel by the accrediting organization?
  • Is "permanent" accreditation granted without any requirement for subsequent periodic review?
  • Does the operation use organizational names similar to recognized accrediting organizations?
  • Does the operation make claims in its publications for which there is no evidence?

Report an Illegal School or Diploma Mill

  • Click here to file a complaint against an institution or report and illegal school or diploma mill