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What to Do If You’ve Been Tricked by a Diploma Mill

5 Steps to Moving On

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Diploma mills are known for using aggressive, unethical recruiting techniques to sign up unsuspecting students. If you enrolled in an online school you thought was legitimate, only to find out later that you gave your tuition money to a diploma mill, you are certainly justified in feeling frustrated. You may not be able to get back all of the time or money you invested in this so-called school. But, don’t give up without a fight. This article will show you how to handle the situation.

1. Figure out the scam. In order to deal with your predicament, you need to understand the law regarding diploma mill schools. In most cases, simply running a diploma mill “school” is not illegal. However, schools that recruit students with false advertising or make false promises regarding financial aid and accreditation may be on legally shaky ground. To find out whether or not your school is accredited by a federally recognized agency, take check with the U.S. Department of Education database. Schools that are not listed on this website cannot offer federal financial aid to students and have a higher likelihood of being diploma mill scams. However, it is important to note that not all unaccredited schools are diploma mills. Some schools may be new or may choose to remain unaccredited while still seeking to provide a quality education to their students.

2. Ask for your money back. Once you’ve figured out how your diploma mill program operates, it’s time to seek recourse. Start by calling the school, explaining your situation, and asking for your tuition money and enrollment fees to be returned. When the school denies your request (which it probably will), follow up with a registered letter explaining any deception or false advertising you encountered and asking, again, for your money to be returned. If you have invested a significant amount, you may wish to consult an attorney about your options. Laws vary from state to state and there’s a chance that your state has passed stricter-than-average legislation restricting how these schools can operate.

3. Report the diploma mill to the Better Business Bureau. Reporting your issue probably won’t benefit you, but it may save other potential students from making the same mistake. By using the Better Business Bureau’s online system, it’s easy to report the problems you encountered with a diploma mill. Be as detailed as possible, outlining any intentional deception and the schools’ response to your request for a refund.

4. Report the diploma mill to your state’s Attorneys General Office. Unless you have an exceptional case, suing the diploma mill or seeking criminal charges is unlikely to work. However, by making an official report to your state’s Attorneys General Office, you’ll create a record that may later be used to prosecute egregious diploma mill businesses. As more disgruntled students make their complaints to the office, state prosecutors will begin to take notice and may very well launch an investigation into the offending diploma mills.

5. Find a reputable online college. Once you’ve done your best to recoup your investment in the diploma mill, start thinking about continuing your education at a reputable school. Don’t let your bad experience sour your idea of online learning as a whole. Many online colleges offer accredited programs that are honest with students and offer a quality education. You may not be able to complete your degree as soon as you had hoped, but learning through a real school will be worth the time and money. Keep in mind that your degree from an accredited online college will be accepted by other schools and employers throughout your life. Meanwhile, a degree from a diploma mill will hinder future educational and employment pursuits. In many states, putting a diploma mill degree on a resume is actually illegal. Graduates with degrees from accredited schools don’t have to worry that they’ll be “discovered” and fired by their employers. Instead, they can hold their heads high.
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