“Distance learning accreditied life experience degrees” are a pretty dicey area. This spam e-mail I got this week is a good example:
Dear Annapurna, (not even close to my real name!)
A Genuine University Degree 1n 4-6 weeks!
Have you ever thought that the only thing stopping you from a great job
and better pay was a few letters behind you name?
Well now you can get them!
BA BSc MA MSc MBA PhD
Within 4-6 weeks!
No Study Required!
It’s an extreme example, but the e-mail illustrates that degrees that don’t involve any formal study have a very poor reputation with both educators and employers, and that the bad reputation is well-deserved. In one recent case, an “under cover student” for the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office named Colby Nolan earned a degree from one diploma mill. Colby Nolan turned out to be the Attorney General’s pet cat! The school was soon closed down.
Fake degrees from so-called “diploma mills” have proved embarrassing for some pretty “respectable” folks. Everyone from local school teachers right on up to NASA scientists have found themselves in hot water when a background check shows they have used some type of fake degree to get their job. Unfortunately, distance education life experience degrees are among the most controversial of non-traditional degrees.
Not All Bad
It’s not that the very best schools don’t give credit for life experience. In fact, major universities have for years given some course credits to students for doing anything from starting a business to working with a charity. Some schools have even gone so far as to create full “competency-based degrees.” The key is that good schools will require rigorous proof and sometimes competency testing before awarding credits in any academic area.
A competency degree, distance experience learning, life university or other non-study based program can sound like an attractive way to get yourself some credentials quickly. The State of Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board (WHECB) offers great advice on these red flags to look out for, no matter where the school you’re looking at is located. According to WHECB, beware of any school that has two or more of these “warning signs”:
1) You can earn degrees in far less time than at a traditional school.
2) The college’s main focus is on giving credits for life experience.
3) You can get a diploma by simply paying a fee.
4) The school allows you to “buy” a point average or honors.
5) The college gives you discounts for enrolling in more than one degree program (though this may be acceptable at some vocational training schools).
6) The school’s address is a P.O. Box or a suite number.
7) The school’s website lacks the normal information a college would have on faculty, library and course requirements.
8) The college gives no information on its faculty, or simply calls them “evaluators” or “counselors.”
9) The school claims to be accredited by a non-existent organization, or by a group not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
10) The name of the college is similar to a well-known university.
Read more about Legitimate distance education life experience degrees.