Be Aware of Degree Mills and other Online Education Scams

The following post is a guest post by Sheena Freestone. The opinions expressed are of the author.

Everyone knows one of the keys to high achievement in life is the completion of a college degree. Whether you obtain your associates, bachelors, masters, or go all the way to PhD, the education and experience you receive at college forms the foundation for the rest of your working career. College isn’t easy, however – expensive tuition, long nights spent studying in the library, difficult tests to pass, group projects, papers, some people just can’t find up the money or dedication to get it done.

The demand for a degree combined with the vast number of people who don’t have one has spawned an online scam that has been going on for years: the degree mill. A degree mill is a fraudulent organization that enables you to buy a counterfeit degree from a bogus college to use on resumes. These degrees, (despite what the forger might promise you) are worth less than the paper they’re printed on. Today we investigate some of the biggest suppliers of fake degrees and expose them for the sham they really are.


Image by ESMTG

This now defunct diploma has been cited as one of the most egregious purveyors of phony college degrees ever. The website name should have been a dead give away that something was up, as any well-intentioned educational institution would never be so bold as to name themselves something so campy. The website provided no testing and no coursework, just a simple order form that allowed anyone to come on, select a specialty, and purchase a degree in their name.

Degrees-R-Us succeeded in “graduating” quite a few counterfeit degree holders, including one fake medical doctor who USA Today reports resulted in the death of an 8-year old diabetic girl. “When the mother followed his advice and took her daughter off insulin, the 8-year-old girl began vomiting and died,” the article tells. “… Laurence Perry, is serving up to 15 months in jail for manslaughter and practicing medicine without a license.”

Cambridge State University

Image by Brandi Sims

Capitalizing on brand recognition, Cambridge State University (located in Mississippi) goes by a name deceptively similar to the ivy league Cambridge University located in the United Kingdom. Degree purchasers do so in the hopes that unsuspecting hiring managers will gloss over the name and assume it must have come from the prestigious university, not the degree mill. Unlike some click-and-buy degree mills, Cambridge State actually does provide some semblance of course work, but it is more of a formality than an actual education. As an example, PhDs were offered for only 11 months of work, a clear example of “too good to be true.”

World Education News & Review reports that in 2006, Mississippi legislature passed a bill that “will allow the Mississippi Commission on College Accreditation to force colleges to halt the distribution of unapproved post-secondary academic degrees.” As a result, Cambridge State University is no longer located in Mississippi, but could pop again elsewhere at any time. is the ultimate in click-and-buy phony degrees. The website outright lies about their supposed real, accredited degrees for sale, claiming that the certifications (including, bachelors, masters and PhD) are all 100% legal and acceptable degrees to carry in your name. Putting aside the fact the degrees are clearly total farces, takes the deception a step further by arranging fake transcripts of classes you never took, at a college you never attended.

Preying on the gullible and desperate, this site boasts clearly forged video testimony designed to overcome objections and convince you that these degrees can help you land the job of your dreams and take your career through the roof. Anyone seeking a legitimate degree should realize that any actual accredited institution would never claim to issue your degrees through a “legal loop hole,” and spend pages of FAQs trying to convince you that their service isn’t a scam.

Life Experience Degrees

In an attempt to legitimize a clearly illegitimate scam, some degree mills have begun calling their documents “life experience degrees.” Such degrees are issued not for comprehension of course material or the passing of tests, but because of the supposed life experience of the applicant. Let’s say you’ve worked in management of a number of years, a life experience degree pusher might issue you a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree for it.

Here’s the kicker — many of these sites don’t even need to verify your experience. is a major provider of such diplomas and claims that they have an “approval board” to review your experience and see if you qualify for the degree you’re trying to buy. Whether or not they actually look into your history to verify the accuracy of what you say or not is irrelevant. Actual college degrees are never awarded for work experience, they are earned through the completion of coursework and the passing of tests.

Ashwood University

Ashwood University is a degree mill similar to, offering to sell off degrees and transcripts bearing the worthless institution’s name. In addition to these forged documents, Ashwood will also furnish you phony letters of recommendation from teachers you never worked with.

A big part of the doctoral (PhD) certification process at traditional, accredited institutions is authoring a thesis – an original work, often as long as a small book, that contains years of research and the implications it carries from your time spent at the college. This is the work that kick starts a graduate’s career, and as such it is often tirelessly slaved over and revised for years on end before being submitted to a review board for approval. At Ashwood, PhD applicants need not go through such stress – a paltry few hundred dollars can buy you a thesis to go with your fake degree – a true scam indeed.

[About the Author: Sheena Freestone is a freelance writer for FundingUniverse. Funding Universe matches qualified entrepreneurs to banks, investors and other funding sources. Funding Universe helps small businesses avoid scams and rip offs by securing funding from trusted national banks and financial institutions.]

6 Thoughts on “Be Aware of Degree Mills and other Online Education Scams”

  1. This is very interesting. I never thought about this before but when people include the university they graduated from do companies validate it? Every company I have worked for or applied to has never questioned the validity of the school I graduated from. They ask for referrals from previous employment, which I think is not the always something to take into consideration. As long the person was not fired, 9 out of 10 times your employer is going to say you were an awesome worker. And who is to validate the credibility of your employer?

    The only reference that can be trusted is your university. And with all these fake online colleges out there, peoples lives could be taken from a fake doctor.

    Great article. I own a business and will definitely review people’s universities in more detail when reviewing resumes.

  2. Yeah, this is tricky business. I don’t think many employers ever question the schools listed on resumes. I remember a dean in my college was forced to quit after they found out he lied on his resume 10 years earlier. The good news is that people are becoming more aware of lying on resumes and have more power to check the facts using the Internet.

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