RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Your online college degree could be a worthless piece of paper. That warning tonight from the Better Business Bureau.
In today's job market, having a diploma or advanced degree is one way to stand out in a crowd. But the Better Business Bureau says watch out. What you paid for may not be what you get.
Bryan Goodman has a full time job, a wife, two kids, and a band. Yet, he spends a ton of time tethered to his computer.
"I've been at Capital One now almost 11 years, and I'm ready to start making my mark." Goodman said.
Bryan is finishing up his business management degree like 12 million other Americans, according to a 2007 government study, in legitimate online college programs.
"It's definitely a major commitment, but there's an end result. You know, you'll have a degree." Goodman said.
But, what's that degree worth? The Better Business Bureau says high school diploma or college degree seekers better ask before you pay.
"They're giving you the impression they can provide you with a high school degree or a college degree, we've seen these things all the time, and they have no basis in fact at all." Tom Gallagher of the Richmond Better Business Bureau said.
The BBB has identified four online diploma mills to avoid. Belford High School, Belford University, Jefferson High Shool Online, and Vencer High School Online.
The Bureau says they've charged from 200 to 1400 dollars and don't require much else. When it comes to higher education, that is a red flag.
"They might ask questions online about your musical tastes. So they give you credit for life experience... that doesn't work that way." Gallagher said.
Bryan spent eight years in the military and time at a traditional college, experiences that would convert into credits.
"They would actually look at your resume and kind of determine whether or not what you were doing from your life experience would actually transfer." Goodman said.
Bryan says before you pay, do what every high school or college student learns to do anyway: Research.
"It's a great way of learning, but you need to know exactly who the company is that's making that offer." Gallagher said.
"I'm having to turn in six assignments each week." Goodman said. "It's a lot harder than people actually think."
If you're interested in an online degree program, you can check the Department of Education's searchable database of accredited schools. The link is on the right.