congratulations, you’ve won the chance to promote online diploma mills!

About a week ago, I received an email from Emma Lee of “Awarding the Web,” telling me that I had been named a 2010 Top 40 Human Resources Blog. All I had to do to “claim” my award was to agree to post the award badge on my site. She added, “If you choose not to accept the award, please let me know, so we can give your spot to the next person on our list. We work hard to put these awards together, with zero outside financial assistance, and we don’t want these awards to go to waste.”

I thought this was pretty damn weird — I’ve been named on similar awards lists in the past and no one has ever told me that I had to “agree” to be named a top blog, or that I had to promote the award on my site or it would be taken away. They’re basically giving away spots to bloggers who agree to promote them, making it not much of a list.
So I ignored them.

Yesterday, I got another email, reminding me that I hadn’t yet posted my award badge and adding:

“If you choose to decline our award, please respond by Monday, July 26. The only reason we ask this is because if you choose to decline or not recognize our award, then let us know so your colleagues who could qualify for the award have a chance at recognition and take your spot. Dennis and I work too hard on these awards for it to be discarded, as this is our passion. We just want our award winners not only to appreciate our award, but also to understand what our ultimate goal is; to take away awards from marketing companies and make them back into what they should be: awards.”

What’s funny about this is that Emma Lee and Dennis Anderson are a marketing company, running a scam to get free promotion on well-trafficked blogs. After some back and forth with Emma about their questionable business model, a little online research quickly revealed that they’re sponsored by a consortium of online diploma mills that are trying to shore up their credibility.

I’m taking up your time with this only because I’m disgusted by this and want to out this silly little scam. Now back to our regular programming…

{ 20 comments… read them below }

  1. Steve Boese*

    That is classic. Another twist to this is I got the same email (twice) from them congratulating me about my excellent blog called 'Punk Rock HR'. If you are going to be a scammer, at least be diligent enough to know who you are trying to scam.

  2. Anonymous*

    How terrible! The diploma mill types are master scammers and they probably figured that they could move on from scamming students to scamming unsuspecting bloggers and the general public.

    I've literally spent days verifying the academic credentials of applicants at my company in an effort to weed out those with diploma mill degrees. It has to be done, but I still feel sorry for the poor applicants with University of Phoenix and other questionable universities on their resumes as they are often saddled with horrible debt and nothing but a joke degree to show for it.

  3. Mike*

    You know, it would be interesting to hear your experiences with diploma mills if you have any. Has anyone tried to pull the wool over your eyes during the hiring process, or from long time employees?

  4. Evil HR Lady*

    I got the same thing and ignored it, because it seemed scammy to me as well.

    Steve, I always suspected that you and Laurie were the same person.

  5. Anonymous*

    Yes, thank you for ignoring these people. I'm getting an MBA online from a REAL university: Arizona State University, a school whose business program is ranked 29th in the nation. I can't stand that my program is lumped in with all these scammers. I've worked too damn hard for too damn long to have that work discounted due to a bunch of people only looking to get rich quick.

  6. Charles*

    Anon at 4;43 said:

    " . . .University of Phoenix and other questionable universities . . ."

    Do those of you who hire really consider Univ of Phoenix to be a "questionable" degree?

  7. christie*

    I'm really curious to know what schools are considered diploma mills. I could hazard a guess, but I'd like to know what HR people think.

  8. Anonymous*

    Any school whose admissions department works more like a used car dealership can be considered a "diploma mill". Ask yourself how selective the school is. If the answer is "not at all" or "almost everyone is accepted" then it probably isn't a legit school. At a legit college, Admissions serves as as a filter to keep out those not able to meet program standards. Diploma mills just want money, anyone's money, and admit based on whether they think you can pay. The sad thing is that most diploma mills are online now and this degrades perceived quality for legit online programs. As a general rule, schools who are entirely online (with no in-person offerings or actual campus) are diploma mills.

  9. christie*

    @Anonymous at 11:33,

    I completely disagree that schools that are 100% online are diploma mills. There are many, many completely legitimate schools that are regionally accredited that offer 100% online programs. Of course, they also offer in-classroom options. (Maybe that's what you meant, though- a school that only offers online programs without any other in-classroom options?)

    As I understand it, if a school is regionally accredited by a CHEA-approved accreditation, then it is not a diploma mill.

    You also must take into account that some schools have much more lenient admissions policies than other schools. A lenient admissions policy does not automatically make a school a diploma mill.

    My actual question wasn't that I was wondering what defines a diploma mill. It was what schools HR people think are diploma mills based on the definition of a diploma mill (no accreditation, degrees for life experience without actually taking classes, etc).

    Just because a school offers a program entirely online does not make it a diploma mill. That's a very harmful (and outdated) attitude, in my opinion.

  10. christie*

    @Anonymous (again)…

    Sorry, I must have missed your comment about legitimate online programs. And yes, I agree with you on that point. The diploma mills definitely degrade real education.

  11. Anonymous*

    For profit = diploma mill

    Real universities aren't profit-seeking businesses with parttime faculty.

  12. Anonymous*

    To Anon July 26, 2010 4:59 PM:

    Forgive me, but I have yet to attend a not for profit university. Maybe you can enlighten us with how those operate?

  13. Anonymous*

    "Forgive me, but I have yet to attend a not for profit university. Maybe you can enlighten us with how those operate?"

    Um, wow. Where to start? 1) they're often under the auspices of a democratically elected body (ie, Univ. of "state") 2) they don't have shares that are bought and sold on the stock market 3) they don't have shares that are held by investors or owners 4) the academic freedom of the faculty is protected through tenure 5) decisions on degree programs and academic content aren't based on marketing decisions and profit-seeking motives: content is determined by aforementioned tenured faculty 6) pay of staff is not based on the numbers of enrollees or graduates…I could go on…I can't decide if you were somehow being sarcastic, or if your ignorancde of a not-for-profit educational model is just a symptom of the "Phonenix-ification" of the younger generation who really hasn't heard of anything else…

  14. Anonymous*

    As a current University of Phoenix student, getting a Masters' degree, is this truly the opnion of the shool, even though it is a fully accredited institution? I completed my undergrad at a private liberal arts college in PA, and find that University of Phoenix is also challenging. I go to school about 15-20 hours a week, depending on the assignments, and don't feel at all like I am coasting through.

    Is this the general opinion though? I am recently starting my job search, and now have concerns that the University of Phoenix on my resume will hurt me. I realize it's not like putting a top-tier business school on my resume, but I still did the work and learned the material.

  15. Anonymous*

    Anonymous at 12:05…

    I briefly looked at UofPhoenix when considering Master's programs, but I crossed it off my list because I don't think the business programs are accredited by the proper agencies. They are regionally accredited, which is good, but not accredited by the business school agencies that set the gold standard. That may have changed, though. I haven't checked in a while.

  16. Anonymous*

    As a former employee of a for-profit online diploma mill, yes, the online degree is a liability. We wouldn't even hire our own graduates.

  17. Anonymous*

    @Anonymous above, how can you say all online degrees are liabilities? That's a rather hasty generalization, especially considering top tier schools and very high quality private and state schools offer online programs that are identical to the requirements for in-classroom programs. Online does not equal diploma mill. Sorry, that's an attitude from the early '00s that needs to go away.

  18. Anonymous*

    I like how, if you decline, they'll pick someone else to be in the "top 40". So it's actually the "top 40 who we could convince to accept our award and display it to everyone".

Comments are closed.