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Make sure internet schools are legitimate before registering

The Internet has revolutionized daily life in many ways. It has also drastically transformed the education landscape. From online assignment postings to virtual classrooms to entire degrees obtained via the Internet, this medium provides a level of convenience that is difficult to surpass. Eduventures, a Boston-based education research firm, estimates about one in 10 college students have been enrolled in an online degree program during 2008.

In March of 2006, Congress passed a law that dropped the requirement that colleges offer at least half their courses face-to-face to receive federal student aid. Online schools offer educational options to a person who would be unable to attend a university for reasons such as time, proximity, or transportation. But opponents say that there are also downsides to getting a degree online.

One of the downfalls to online educations is the abundance of diploma mills out there that avid students must weed through on their way to finding a reputable institution. A diploma mill is actually a business that makes a profit by selling bogus degrees. It is not difficult for a business to register a domain name with the .edu suffix and design a professional looking Web page, and the anonymity of the Internet makes it difficult to tell diploma mills from reputable schools.

Here are some ways to recognize a diploma mill.

•The "school" may have a similar name to a well-known college or university.

•The school is not accredited. Reputable U.S. colleges and universities will be accredited. Check accreditation of the online degree at the the U.S. Department of Education www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Search.asp

•Degree requirements are vague or unspecified, lacking class descriptions and without any mention of how many credit hours are required to complete a program.

•Tuition or fees are charged on a per-degree basis rather than per credit.

•Academic honors, grade point average, and even the diploma date can be prespecified. Check legitimacy of the Internet University with the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

•Admissions selectivity is virtually nil, and there is no question of grades or previous test scores.

To verify the legitimacy of a school write to the Diploma Mill Police (yes they actually exist) that authenticates Internet Institutes of Education, at www.geteducated.com/services/diplomamillpolice.asp.




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