Education scams are running rampant at the present time. With unemployment on the rise and the job market seemingly shrinking, those looking for jobs need every advantage they can muster. Millions are looking for work, and earning a diploma or advanced degree is a good way to set one’s self apart from the pack. Money is scarce, though, and tuitions are high. Distance-learning and online based classes are an affordable alternative for many looking to make a difference on their resume.

Being able to compete in a job market filled with so many qualified individuals looking for work is nearly impossible for those who haven’t finished high school. This makes obtaining a GED or General Education (Equivalency) Diploma a necessity, but don’t get scammed.

The General Educational Development Testing Service (GEDTS), a program of the American Council on Education (ACE) and architect of the Tests of General Educational Development (GED Tests), recently had to come out and issue an advisement letting potential students know that GED credentials cannot be earned via the Internet or through correspondence programs.

There were reports received nationwide by GED administrators of complaints from those who thought they had taken and passed official GED Tests and had therefore earned the highly valued GED credential to be issued by their respective state GED testing agency.

Again, GED testing can not be completed online or via correspondence program. The GED test must be administered locally by each of the 50 states and District of Columbia. Those who wish to locate the testing center nearest to their location are advised to use the ACE’s GED Testing Center locator link at the end of the article.

And while those looking to complete their GEDs are falling victim too frequently to this fraud, higher education is still where the majority of the phony education scam is perpetrated.

According to the Better Business Bureau, a 2008 survey from the Sloan Consortium and Babson Survey Research Group showed 3.9 million students enrolled in at least one online course and more than 20 percent of higher education students were taking at least one online course, as well.

Numbers this high have resulted in a new wave of scams that are specifically designed to take advantage of these potential students. These online diploma mills offer classes, credit for life experience and make claims of accreditation. Students often complete the course only to quickly discover their “diplomas” aren’t even worth the paper they are printed on.
The BBB warned consumers to be on the lookout for four online diploma mills in particular.
The Houston area BBB received over 100 complaints last year from students in over 40 states who paid for degrees and advanced education from Belford High School and Belford University.

Having been told that Belford High School was not only accredited but would be accepted in 99 percent of colleges, students paid almost $700 for a high school diploma by taking an online test or qualifying through “life experience”.
Life experience was also the major requirement for associate, bachelor and advanced degrees from Belford University in nursing, accounting and other fields. One complaint was filed by a student who had spent over $1,200 on a Doctorate of Medicine degree. Along with the diplomas, they also received transcripts with claims they took classes in Aromatherapy and Introduction to Aerosol Science.

These folks who took their Belford degrees to college admission offices and military recruitment centers quickly discovered they were completely worthless. Other students were embarrassed to learn of their non-existent value on actual job interviews.

Complaints have also come from Texas, Ohio, and South Carolina about Jefferson High School Online. At this “learning center” students paid $200 for a degree that was given after passing a test. The test came in two parts.

The first was for the dreaded “life experience” and asked questions about the music they listened to, and how physically active they were and the answers were applied to the test-taker’s “elective and life experience credits”. The second portion of the test consisted of multiple choice questions in areas such as language arts, math and science. If a question was answered incorrectly a hint was given and the students had four chances to answer the question correctly from the four provided answers.

Not surprisingly, no college would accept a degree from Jefferson High School Online during enrollment.

The company that owns Jefferson High School Online, MMDS Ltd., also has a website for Vencer High School Online. Although not as many complaints have come in regarding the Vencer site, it is identical to the Jefferson High site except for the name.

Keep in mind, colleges and universities go through a meticulous review of the quality of their education programs by a legitimate accreditation agency. Although many diploma mills claim to be accredited, this status is provided by a bogus, official-sounding agency that they created themselves. There are links provided at the end of the article to check if a school you are interested in has been accredited by a legitimate agency.

Here are some tips to tell if you are about to waste your money on a diploma mill:
LIFE EXPERIENCE – Some colleges may give particular credits pertinent to specific degree programs based on life experience, but never an entire degree.

TOO EASY – Legitimate colleges and universities do not offer degrees based on a simple test or questionnaire. A real degree, online included, will require a heavy course load.
SIMPLE FEE – Most degree mills offer their services on a pay-by-degree method. A real college will charge by the credit, course or semester.

TOO FAST – No legitimate degree will be obtained in a matter of days, weeks or even months. They require substantial work. Any promises for a quick degree are probably being made by a degree mill.

THEY FIND YOU – Genuine colleges and universities advertise, they don’t however resort to the aggressive tactics of most degree mills. If you receive spam emails, high-pressure telemarketing calls, or spot a pop-up ad online rest assured you are being sold on the services of a degree mill.

Education is crucial to career advancement, especially in a job market flooded with qualified candidates. Before getting that degree or GED, be sure to do a little homework and check up on the institution you are interested in. It pays to practice smarts, even before you start school.


ACE GED Testing Center Locator
To search for accredited secondary education institutions try:

US Department of Education
Council for Higher Education Accreditation

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