The Daily Dot: Here’s How To Know If A College Is A Total Scam

Career College Central Summary:

  • The for-profit college industry is booming in the U.S., despite a federal crackdown and thanks in no small part to the Internet, which has made the prospect of stay-at-home education seem plausible, if not quite prudent. But many online universities are non-accredited, barely staffed, and financially predatory: Just this month, a woman named Susan Xiao-Ping Su was sentenced to 16 years in prison for running Tri-Valley University, a front that allowed her to take in $5.6 million via the sale of fraudulent student visa documents to immigrants. 
  • Most of Su’s “students” were aware of her scam and just looking to remain in the country under the pretext of academic study; in other cases, customers really do believe they’re taking an important step on the path of self-improvement, one that will increase their odds of employment and enhance their standing in the world. How can one avoid institutions that only exist to bleed you dry? You might keep an eye out for the warning signs listed below. (And probably don’t enroll at Harvard, if you can help it.)
  • 1) The expectations are low, or nonexistent.

    • You know what there’s a lot of in college? Yeah, besides beer pong. Homework! If you’re not getting much in the way of assignments—i.e., the things that prove you understand the concepts presented in your classes—then it’s likely there’s no one on the other end to grade it or give you feedback. Consider the Ivory Tower that is Newburgh Theological Seminary & College of the Bible, which will grant you a PhD for the Herculean task of reading an entire book and describing what it’s about, much as you did in elementary school.
    • Still, that dubious degree is enough to get you a job as assistant deputy minister in the Department of Education—in the Yukon. Most graduates, however, will be left out in the cold.       
  • 2) A credit card is the only prerequisite for admission.

    • An Adult Swim parody “infomercial” advertising “For-Profit Online University” nailed this point with a wide-eyed student testimonial: “Enrolling was easy, because they already had my credit card information on file!” Another adds: “Technically, if you have a credit card, you’re already enrolled.”
    • This isn’t far from the truth, sadly. Several years ago, GetEducated.com successfully purchased a $499 MBA for their mascot—a pug named Chester—from Rochville University. A week after ponying up the money, they received a package from Dubai that included Chester’s diploma, “two sets of college transcripts, a certificate of distinction in finance, and a certificate of membership in the student council.” His GPA was given as 3.19, though for just $100 more, “he could have graduated with honors.” Excelsior! 

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THE DAILY DOT

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