Disclaimer: USDLA is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the development and application of distance learning for education and training. USDLA reserves the right to review and/or revoke membership applications and members acceptances at all levels and at any time as well as request more information regarding a specific individual, school, company or organization if necessary in order to ensure that they are meeting and maintaining the Association's recognized standards for professional practice and excellence.
If for any reason an application for membership is declined after review by USDLA, a 50% fee of any money paid will be deducted as a processing fee and the remainder of the membership payment will be refunded. If it comes to USDLA’s attention that a current member is not adhering to the recognized standards for professional practice and excellence, the membership can be terminated and the remainder of the membership payment will be forfeited. All new applicants for membership and existing members of USDLA are subject to periodic review by the USDLA Central Office, the Advisory Board, and/or the Board of Directors to meet the intent of this policy.
If the applicant wants to appeal the decision it may provide three references (i.e., public official or a company with which you have done business, two recent graduates and a teacher/trainer/faculty member).
Possible criteria for why a K-12 School or Higher Education Institution may be denied USDLA membership include, but are not limited to:
- It lacks licensure, certification or accreditation by a nationally or internationally reputable educational agency.
- It misrepresents its educational licensure, certification or accreditation and refers to itself as "fully accredited".
- It asserts its academic legitimacy on claims of affiliation with respected organizations that are not engaged in school licensure, certification or accreditation.
- Promotional materials use words denoting a legal status such as "licensed", "state authorized", or "state-approved" to suggest an equivalence to accreditation or advertise other indicators of authenticity that are not relevant to academic credentials.
- It has no teaching facilities — the address is a postal box or mail forwarding service or suite numbers.
- It has little or no interaction with professors. Comments and corrections to coursework are given, but do not affect getting the degree. Professors serve only to write compliments to the "student" that can be given as references.
- The name of institution is deceptively similar to well known reputable universities.
- Degrees can be obtained within a few days, weeks or months from the time of enrollment, and back-dating is possible.
- Either there are no faculty members or they hold advanced degrees from a diploma mill or hold degrees unrelated to the subject they teach.
- Academic credit is offered for "life experience," and this is featured heavily in the selling points of the institution.
- Tuition and fees are charged on a per-degree basis rather than on a per-term or per-course basis.
- Prospective students are encouraged to "enroll now" before tuition or fees are increased, or they qualify for a "fellowship", "scholarship" or "grant" or they're offered deals to sign up for multiple degrees at the same time.
- The institution has no library, personnel, publication or research. There is very little that is tangible.
- Doctoral theses and dissertations are not available from a national repository or even the institution's own library.
- Promotional literature contains grammatical and spelling errors, words in Latin, extravagant or pretentious language, and sample diplomas. The school's website looks amateurish or unprofessionally made.
- The school is advertised using unsolicited electronic mail or other questionable methods.
- The school is situated in another country or legal jurisdiction, where running diploma mills is legal, standards are lax or prosecution is unlikely. Despite being situated in such a diploma mill-friendly country, the school has no students from that country, and is run entirely by non-native staff.
It is expected that all United States Distance Learning Association non-profit members, for-profit members and sponsors will adhere to USDLA’s and their industry standards for professional practice and excellence.