How to Assess the Credibility of Distance Learning Programs

Get you degree for what you already know!

Get credit for life experience!

Earn your degree in as little as two weeks!

Each of these is a sure sign that you are looking at a degree that is worth next to nothing. Knowing that some people would not be fooled by such claims began to invent colleges with names that either sounded like another more well known college or some famous person out of American History. How can you tell the difference?

The first type is easy! If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.

The second type is a little more difficult but with a little work and objectivity it is easy enough. Check to see who has accredited the college or university. If it is not accredited by one of the major regional accrediting agencies then it is immediately suspect. The next step is to see if it is accredited by a national accrediting agency such as DETC or the Distance Education Training Council. If not, put the advertisement and junk mail down and step away from the attempt to separate you from your money!

Then there is the third case which is one of the most insidious. Back in the 70s and 80 the University of the State of New York started up New York Regents College. While this was a good idea in many ways, it had one fatal flaw: You could earn a degree just by testing out of classes by taking CLEP and DSST exams offered by DANTES. To get a 4 year degree you needed to take a subject GRE and score above the 35th percentile. This wasn’t difficult and many people did it. Over time the reputation grew so bad that they changed the name to Regents College and finally separated and became Excelsior College. Over time the standards changed and now it more closely resembles a regular college but virtually all students are distance learners only now you actually have to take classes.

In some cases old degree mills that were just a step ahead of the degree for cash game and actually wanted some form of “academic work” have actually evolved into nationally accredited and state certified institutions. This has made the process much harder.

The disadvantage of getting a bogus degree is that there is the possibility of being exposed at some point and that could cost you your job and your reputation. A high ranking official in the Department of Homeland Security found that out when her graduate degree was found to be issues by a degree mill.
So what is a degree seeker to do?

Stick with the regionally accredited institutions that have a brick and mortar presence somewhere. Do detailed searches and using a Google search with the terms “Oregon degree mills” should lead you to a site by the state of Oregon which details what “schools” are not recognized by the state of Oregon. This is a valuable site and should be bookmarked by every degree seeker and educational counselor. (

It is possible to earn a very respected degree via distance learning and many colleges are entering the digital age and offering degrees that you can earn via the internet. Take the time to learn about the college and your learning experience will be worth the effort and no one can ever slight you for your degree or manner in which you got it.

Get your degree the old fashioned way: Earn it!