Searching online for open courseware, I found phrases like “get your degree online real quick” and “your university degree is only a step away.” Now these seemed to combine the ideas of online degrees and “get instant access,” so I looked at a few suspect sites.
Some were subtle about their scam aspect, and some not so subtle. One site had the text “Online degree: $15,000”; the red “15000” was stricken through, and underneath it a number in green: “350.” Online university degree for $300?
It turns out there are two very different kinds of misrepresentations:
(a) Some relatively genuine sites, which charge the fees you’d expect. These claim “accreditation” via phrases like “universally accredited” and “globally accredited.” An actual phrase I came across is “globally accredited and recognized university.” Many of these universities and their programs aren’t accredited as claimed.
(b) Full-blown scams, where the fees for “the degree of your choice” is below $1,000. These have come to be called “degree mills.”
How do you make out? In the latter case, it’s mostly tell-tale signs: MasterCard/Visa logos prominently displayed. Ridiculously low prices. Little mention on the front page of the actual learning. An emphasis on “quick” and “easy.”
In the former case, there are sites where you can check the credentials of a site, online university, or degree program. Here are two:
GetEducated.com: General information here about degree mills. You can also enter the name of a university or institution and check whether there are associated bad reports, whether it is accredited by various bodies, and so on.
Diploma Mill News: Links, reports, cases of fraud, and more.