The United States Distance Learning Association is the leading organization of 21st century learning professionals in the United States. This is a special advisory regarding Diploma Mills. Learners need to be proactive in protecting their educational rights and opportunities.
The United States Distance Learning Association makes great strides to identify the legitimacy of its not-for profit and for- profit members. However, the proliferation and advertising and marketing sophistication of “diploma mills” makes it impossible for an individual organization to identify all those entities that are selling and marketing fraudulent academic programs and documents. Although many states have passed legislation to deter and outlaw diploma mills, most state, local, national, and international governments have been unable to stem their activities. USDLA urges members and interested parties to further research any college/university which they are interested in attending since licensing, accrediting and legal standing within the educational community can quickly change. There is no substitute for speaking with school/college personnel and requesting the opportunity to discuss an academic program with a graduate.
If a college/university is accredited by one of the following six regional accrediting agencies, a prospective student can be assured that the institution is eligible for federal student loans and that credits are transferable among institutions.
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Licensing vs. Accreditation
It is imperative for prospective students to understand the difference between licensing and accreditation. A school should be licensed by its respective state Department of Education. One can contact the state Department of Education, where the academic institution claims physical residence, to research the institution’s licensing status. Upon receipt of a state license, many academic institutions then acquire regional or national accreditation. The major reason academic institutions seek regional or national accreditation is to provide enrolled students access to federal student loans. Many excellent schools are licensed by their respective state Department of Education, but are not accredited. These schools often fall into the category of a career or vocational school. Simply because a school is not regionally or nationally accredited does not infer that it does not offer quality academic programs. However, there can be long-term ramifications if an academic institution is not accredited including the inability to transfer credit including enrolling in a future advanced degree program (master’s and doctorate), limited access to student financing, and certificate/degree acceptability by employers.
National Accreditation vs. Regional Accreditation
Moreover, it is important to understand that there are both national and regional accrediting agencies. Not all accreditations and accrediting agencies are given the same acceptance by colleges and employers. USDLA urges prospective students to research the accreditation of a school/college/university prior to enrolling. Once again, failure to adequately research the institution’s licensing and accreditation can have a significant impact on one’s degree acceptability and the transfer of course credit. To research the accreditation status of an academic institution, please visit the Department of Education site at: http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation.