Scam Schools And Diploma Mills

Online education has exploded in popularity over the past fifteen years. Unfortunately, scam schools and diploma mills have also boosted their numbers during this same time period. The intended purpose of this article is to discuss the warning signs associated with fraudulent schools. Nursing Students General Students Article

Scam Schools And Diploma Mills

Several generations ago, a high school education had been sufficient enough to land a good position. An individual could graduate from high school, find an entry-level job, remain with the same place of employment for thirty to forty years, enjoy some middle class comforts along the way, and retire with a generous employer-sponsored pension. Well, those days are a thing of the distant past.

With a high-school education no longer a ticket to a well-paying job, and 77 percent of adults over 25 without a bachelor's degree, trade schools have enormous appeal to anyone looking to make more money (Yeoman, 1997). To make things worse, several of these schools are nothing more than boldfaced scams and diploma mills. Some scam schools are designed solely to amass tuition monies, federal grants, and student loans (Yeoman, 1997).

Diploma mills are schools that are more interested in taking your money than providing you with a quality education (U.S. Department of Education, 2009). The typical diploma mill or scam school has no selective admissions requirements and minimal or no academic work required. In return, the so-called 'graduate' receives a diploma or degree upon completion of the program that is basically worthless.

Multiple warning signs are associated with scam schools and diploma mills. Some people do not spot these red flags until it is too late. Therefore, be on the lookout for the following attributes:

  • Diplomas or degrees are granted based solely on life experience.
  • So-called 'professors' and 'instructors' are difficult to reach
  • Diplomas or degrees are granted after a very short time frame.
  • Instead of paying per college credit, students pay for each degree.
  • The school has a lack of contact information.
  • Tests are administered online and are not proctored or monitored.
  • The school's website is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors.
  • The school is accredited by a phony accrediting agency.
  • The school's website does not end in .edu

Some of you might be reading this and simultaneously thinking, "All of this stuff should be common sense. Doesn't everybody know to keep an eye out for these red flags by now?"

Unfortunately, many people are conned by scam schools and diploma mills every year. High school dropouts pay money to odious institutions in exchange for diplomas that are later discovered to be worth far less than the paper on which they are printed. People who are too busy to deal with the rigors of higher education pay hard-earned dollars for college degrees that end up having no value in the academic world or the workplace. Click on the link below to read some of these peoples' stories:

Online Degrees: Schools Scam Aspiring Students

Always keep in mind that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Any schooling that is quick and easy is probably associated with a diploma mill or scam school. In a nutshell, keep your guard up and make sure that the people in your lives do not fall for any educational scams.


TheCommuter, BSN, RN, CRRN is a longtime physical rehabilitation nurse who has varied experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for more than four years prior to becoming a Registered Nurse.

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Specializes in Psych ICU, addictions.

Good article.

One thing...there are reputable brick-and-mortar schools that offer online classes or online programs, and who sometimes give their tests online without proctoring. Students are bound by the honor contract that they signed, and the online activity of the student is usually monitored. It may be all of the tests, or the testing would be a mix of unproctored regular tests and a proctored final.

So that practice by itself in an online school isn't necessary a red flag: it needs to be taken into consideration with other factors.

Now if the school did that AND had a few of the other warning signs, or didn't take its online testing seriously, then I'd be very concerned.

Why is there not a law making these schools illegal?

Thujone, I'm wondering the same thing. How are they able to offer programs like this? I mean, I don't see anything quite like this for teaching, engineering, medicine. Why nursing?

If a school can't get accreditation, how can they even accept students in a nursing program? If they are not HERE, how can they even operate?

Specializes in LTC Family Practice.

Good article, the scammer schools are growing in all areas, I'd love to see them outlawed.

And these programs cost an arm and a leg.

I wish people would just sloooooooow down and wait to get into a good solid program.

Instant admission is not worth thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of debt that is a nightmare to pay off.

Slooooowwwww downnnnn indeed. I'm sure it sounds lovely to some....getting into a program that is very short. However, at the end of it you find out it's not accredited, so you've wasted that time and STILL have to get into an accredited program. Might as well do it right the first time and save money in the process. :) Very informative article, I hope everyone takes the time to read.

Specializes in Forensic Psych.
And these programs cost an arm and a leg.

I wish people would just sloooooooow down and wait to get into a good solid program.

Instant admission is not worth thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of debt that is a nightmare to pay off.

This is something that I want to say on this sight 20 times a day. Slooooow down.

Specializes in nursing education.

I've seen it for "human services" and "healthcare management" degrees that co-workers of mine paid for (or the government paid for, I don't know). These are related fields that also purport to be fast-growing and full of well-paying job opportunities.

The lady that got a BS BS in human services several years ago now has yet to find a job in the field; the one that got a BS in healthcare management has the poorest work ethic and communication skills of anyone with whom I have ever worked. She was thisclose to being fired the whole time we worked together. Maybe she confused the one-on-one coaching she got from human resources as part of her "work improvement plan" with her school internship?

Probably the worst thing that has come out of all of this is that so many people from my company got tuition reimbursement to attend questionable programs, then didn't graduate. Now the well of reimbursement has essentially run dry. I know the economy played a part in both of these things, but it screwed over people with a real chance who didn't jump on the wagon soon enough.

Specializes in Med/surg, Quality & Risk.

Names of these schools would be interesting to hear.

Here are two interesting sites/blogs exposing diploma mills:

*Diploma Mills: How to Spot and Avoid Them!

* (specifically: Diploma Mill News: Search results for nursing)

I guess the key is to do your research . . .

This is an informative article but some of us still aren't sure if a school is legit or not. I would appreciate some guidance on this.

I am looking at a school in Delaware that is accredited by the Delaware Board of Nursing (which I verified on the State of Delaware's website) and has a Better Business Bureau rating of "A". It is not a typical university or college but rather a trade school. They only train LPNs. The full-time program is one year in length while the part-time program is only a few months more.

The school is extremely small and shares their "campus" with other businesses such as an employment agency and the Justice of the Peace! I visited the school and had an interview with one of the teachers who took notes on everything I said. At the end of the interview she said I was accepted. She is an actual teacher there and was doing the interview on her lunch break. Some of the students talked with her so I know she teaches there and isn't just wearing a lab coat. I had a brief look at the classrooms which were nothing special but what would I expect for a place that shares the building with others?

They have a clinical lab area with everything that probably should be there for doing labs. The problem is, I am still not sure if they are a diploma mill or a scam school! Since they are a trade school and not a university I will not earn any degree but a diploma. I also live in an area where there are still some diploma nursing schools. Also, the school is overseen by a business I guess. The school is Leads School of Technology and their parent company is Leads Network, Inc. I can't find any information on the parent company and from what I found out on the school is not helpful. They have only been in business and accredited since 2007. From here, I am not sure what to do. The tuition sounds fairly reasonable I think: $16,002.00. This includes books, clinical uniform, fees for lab, fee for NCLEX prep course and other things that make sense. Their website ends with an "" and the site seems to be very well written. However, the teachers are not listed, just some of the staff. They have a working phone number of course. :)

Also, the tuition they ask can be paid in installments but they do not accept credit cards or personal checks. This was a red flag when I spoke with my dad about it. Although I got advice from someone else about the school, I'd like to know what other people think and if there is any other way if I can find out if they are a scam school or diploma mill. I think my next step is to call other nursing programs in the area and ask if they will accept my impending credits from this school if I decide to attend an RN program a bit later on. What do you guys think? What else can I watch out for? I have not paid any money at this point, not even for the application fee. I did submit all necessary paperwork and got my criminal background check, drug test, physical, and immunizations done.