Is This School Really Accredited?

Sometimes, things aren’t really the way them seem. This is true with institutions and programs that claim they are accredited when really, they are not. Some go to great extremes to convince prospective students of their legitimacy, their credibility and worse, their accreditation status.

Here are 10 tips to help you figure out if that impressive-sounding institution is really nothing more than a diploma mill.

The accrediting agency doesn’t exist

Always confirm that the accrediting board that the institution claims to have received accreditation from is real. This is easily accomplished by reviewing The Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

Claims fast-track accreditation

Accreditation is a very involved process that takes years. You should be suspicious of any institution that claims it was granted accreditation status after only a few months.

Claims permanent accreditation

You should also be suspicious of any institution that claims it was granted permanent accreditation. Accreditation is a temporary status and must be periodically renewed.

Name sounds the same

It’s easy to be fooled by a distance learning institution with a name that sounds a lot like a better known, more prestigious institution of higher education. Pay attention!

There’s no street address

When the address consists of only a post office box, chances are good you’re not dealing with an accredited institution. Even though you’ll be learning online, the institution should have an actual street address.

Customer service is non-existent

If your calls go unanswered, or the only way to make contact is via email, you may be dealing with a non-accredited and/or disreputable program or institution. You should always be able to speak to someone during posted business hours when dealing with an accredited institution.

Requires a single payment up front

Reputable institutions and programs allow students to “pay as they go” and typically bill for tuition on a semester or trimester basis. Payment in full in advance is a definite red flag.

Promises that life experience counts

An offer of credit for “applicable” work or life experience is another warning sign that the place you’re dealing with probably is not accredited and really just wants your money.

Degrees can be purchased

If you can buy your degree, chances are the organization is disreputable. Real degrees are earned, not purchased.

Discount prices

Don’t be fooled by low cost. A high quality education isn’t cheap, whether it’s obtained at a traditional institution or a distance learning institution. Always think of an education as an investment in your future, not a clearance aisle special.