We have recently received several inquiries from international students asking us about blacklisted (unaccredited) schools via our online live chat. One of those mentioned is Akamai University (http://www.akamaiuniversity.us) which is based in Hawaii. The other one of concern is Staton University (http://www.stantonuniversity.com) of Los Angeles, California.

We, being very familiar with the U.S. Higher Education system, immediately detected that both schools have no legitimate accreditation because neither website ends with the standard .edu suffix for U.S. legal higher education institutions.

(Some unaccredited colleges may have .edu suffix for their websites, such as https://www.aiu.edu/ for Atlantic International University, based in Hawaii. Even this school may sound legal, it is NOT recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.)

When searching for a fully accredited American school, always be sure to use U.S. government-sponsored websites such as CollegeNavigator or CollegeScorecard. You may also use our site’s “School Search” function as well. All schools in our database are fully accredited. We have also eliminated many low-quality schools and those that perpetrated various scams or fraud.

Please note that just because a U.S. school is accredited, this in itself does not ensure that the school does not participate in fraudulent recruiting scams, has not had scandals, nor is it free of customer complaints. Here are just a few examples:

DeVry settles claims of deceptive advertising for $100 million
The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Sues For-Profit College ITT Tech
Alta Colleges to Pay U.S. $7 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations

Sadly, the information compiled on these so-called blacklisted colleges and universities was not done at the behest of the U.S. government. Neither the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) -the government agency responsible for international students, nor did any other relevant government agencies have anything to do with this project. Rather, this information was compiled solely by the student victims themselves with the help of state and local government. Many blacklisted universities are in fact registered as companies rather than educational institutions. This allows unscrupulous businessmen and women to exploit prospective students’ ignorance of the legitimate education guidelines and laws designed to protect consumers.

What is a Degree (or Diploma) Mill?
According to the U.S. Department of Education (USDE):

DIPLOMA MILL- The term `diploma mill’ means an entity that–

(A)

(i) offers, for a fee, degrees, diplomas, or certificates, that may be used to represent to the general public that the individual possessing such a degree, diploma, or certificate has completed a program of postsecondary education or training; and

(ii) requires such individual to complete little or no education or coursework to obtain such degree, diploma, or certificate; and

(B)

lacks accreditation by an accrediting agency or association that is recognized as an accrediting agency or association of institutions of higher education (as such term is defined in section 102) by–

(i) the Secretary pursuant to subpart 2 of part H of title IV; or

(ii) a Federal agency, State government, or other organization or association that recognizes accrediting agencies or associations.

The USDE elaborates further:

A diploma mill is an unaccredited school (or a business claiming to be a school) that awards a degree without requiring classwork that meets college-level standards. Some will provide you with a “diploma” without requiring any work at all just as long you pay a fee. Others assign classwork that is so easy, that degree is worthless compared to a degree from an accredited school, and it will NOT help you get a good job.

It is imperative that prospective students pay attention to, and cross-check the legitimacy of a school’s accreditation. The key to selecting a U.S.college should not be based solely on whether it is on a blacklist or not. This is because an illegitimate school can reestablish itself at any time and in any state just by changing its’ name. Do your research, and be sure to verify your prospective school’s accreditation as well as the accreditation boards themselves.

Seven Ways of Detecting a Diploma Mill
The U.S. Better Business Bureau suggests you be aware of these seven WARNING SIGNS when searching for a school:

Degrees that can be earned in less time than at an accredited postsecondary institution.
A list of accrediting agencies that sounds a little too impressive. Often, these schools will list accreditation by organizations that are not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. These schools may also falsely imply official approval by mentioning state registration or licensing.
Offers that place unrealistic emphasis on offering college credits for a lifetime or real-world experience.
Tuition paid on a per-degree basis, or discounts for enrolling in multiple degree programs. Accredited institutions charge by credit hours, course, or semester.
Little or no interaction with professors.
Names that are similar to well known reputable universities.
Addresses that are box numbers or suites. That campus may very well be a mail drop box or located in someone’s attic.

From our observation, some accredited institutions may also have one or some of the 7 features mentioned by the Better Business Bureau. So, BE VERY CAREFUL!

(Click here to continue reading Part 2)