Diploma Mills/Accreditation Information

With the importance of education in today’s competitive market, attending a college, university or career school that has met basic quality standards is essential.

With more and more new educational opportunities available, it is important for students to exercise consumer awareness, especially with regard to diploma mills. This issue has been acknowledged by Congress and the definition they have provided is as follows: "Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 - U.S. Department of Education's federal definition of degree mills (found on page 10):

(20) Diploma mill--The term 'diploma mill' means an entity that--

(A) i. offers, for a fee, degrees, diplomas or certificates that may be used to represent to the general public that the individual possessing such a degree, diploma, or certificate has completed a program of postsecondary education or training; and

ii. requires such an individual to complete little or no education or coursework to obtain such degree, diploma, or certificate; and

(B) lacks accreditation by an accrediting agency or association that is recognized as an accrediting agency or association of institutions of higher education (as such term is defined in section 102) by--

i. the Secretary pursuant to subpart 2 of part H of title IV; or

ii. a federal agency, State government, or other organization or association that recognizes accrediting agencies or associations."

In New Hampshire, the Commission works with colleges, universities and career schools in all sectors (profit and non-profit; independent and public) to protect and provide financial aid for students. If a postsecondary institution has a physical presence in New Hampshire, the Commission has a process in place to ensure its quality: approval for colleges and universities, and licensing for career schools. See Directories of approved and licensed postsecondary institutions in New Hampshire.

In addition to these state standards, there are processes in place for quality assurance nationwide. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) recognizes specific accrediting agencies (see below) that accredit either educational institutions or programs. This recognition allows students attending those accredited institutions or programs to be eligible for financial aid under Title IV. Like the USDE, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) recognizes accrediting agencies. However, the CHEA and the USDE are independently run; not all USDE recognized agencies are also CHEA recognized (and vice-versa). Some institutions choose not to be Title IV funded and, therefore, do not require USDE recognition.

For a list of USDE recognized agencies and other related information, visit the USDE’s website; go to the "How do I find..." and select “Accreditation” on the drop-down menu.

The USDE and the CHEA both provide access to information on postsecondary institutions and programs that have been accredited by recognized accrediting agencies. However, not all institutions seek accreditation, and only institutions and programs accredited by recognized agencies are included in the database. If students are interested in a school with a national endorsement, they are encouraged to consider schools on the USDE and CHEA lists.