How Diploma Mills Rip Off Milwaukee Students

By Scottie Lee Meyers Ask instructors at any of the city’s official GED testing centers for names of people who have been scammed into buying a fake degree from a “diploma mill” and you’re likely to get a list. Some of Milwaukee’s adult educators keep a blacklist of bogus schools on file. The barrage of fraudulent diplomas has clearly led to fatigue as some administrators confessed to no longer reporting the scams to authorities. Tony Tsai, adult education manager at UMOS, said he sees fake diplomas every month, occasionally several a week, at his testing center on the South Side. “It hurts the whole community, but especially the working poor and the less educated. They’re more vulnerable and more desperate. To me it’s disgusting. It’s criminal. It’s amazing what some people will do to make a buck,” Tsai said. It’s the same story on Milwaukee’s North Side. Tim Foran, a senior instructor at YWCA, said he and his coworkers used to see fake diplomas “all the time,” although they’ve been less common lately. “My coworkers and I would talk about it and wonder how these shady businesses continue to get away with it,” Foran said. Fueled by the Internet and high dropout rates, diploma mills have grown to become a billion-dollar industry by preying on well-meaning students and cheating them out of hundreds of dollars. The for-profit schools exist increasingly online, but also as storefronts. To escape scrutiny and their victims, they often change addresses and phone numbers. The schools give students an enticing sales pitch: no classes and no homework. Just pass four take-home tests and a diploma is yours in two weeks’ time. The diploma’s calligraphy, gold-pleated seal and superintendent signature all support its authenticity. Actually, it’s a virtually worthless piece of paper because the institution’s accreditation is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Without proper accreditation, the schools operate without supervision of a state or professional educational agency and there’s no way to verify the quality of their education. Diploma mills maintain the guise of legitimacy through false advertising, if not criminal fraud. An undercover investigation by the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service revealed how far some businesses were willing to go to enroll students, and how they evade law enforcement due to the complex issues of federal versus state jurisdictions. Read the full article here:

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