A diploma mill as an organization that offers a diploma for a fee while requiring very little substantive coursework, as defined by the Higher Education Opportunity Act. Diploma mills are often unaccredited by recognized accreditation entities.
While most diploma mills are unaccredited, some are accredited by an accreditation mill. The International Assembly for Collegiate Business Accreditation Education defines accreditation mills as organizations that, similar to diploma mills, offer accreditation for a fee. Accreditation mills are not concerned with whether schools deserve accreditation, in the same way that diploma mills are unconcerned with whether students earn a degree. Both are primarily concerned with making money off of unwary students or organizations, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Since diploma mills focus more on charging money than teaching, they are usually easy to spot, according to the U.S. Department of Education. These schools typically offer degrees for little or no work or in very short spans of time. Many diploma mills offer course credit for life experience or prior knowledge, allowing students to place out of many credits. In contrast, real colleges very rarely offer credit for work not completed at their institution and usually require students to test out of or take classes to earn credit. Finally, be aware of institutions that require little or no interaction with professors or other qualified teachers; real colleges tend to have large staffs and professors with degrees.