For students who dropped out of high school and didn’t get a diploma or GED, a high school diploma for as little as $89 can be very appealing. But not all diplomas are equal, and if the diploma isn’t from a school with a recognized accreditation, the diploma could be worthless.
Last spring, Dallas BBB received thousands of inquiries from potential students checking out I. Jean Cooper Private School, a private home study school in Dallas. The school distributed flyers offering a high school diploma for $89. Students were told they could register, pick up assignments and complete them, then receive a diploma. Students and families soon complained to BBB that the diplomas were not accepted by colleges and training schools. One official told a student the diploma is “fake” and the school is not accredited. One college told a student that the diploma is “lower than a GED.”
Dallas BBB sent an employee to check out the offer by registering as a student. The “student” picked up assignments and returned them, but gave wrong answers to many questions, and even had other people complete some assignments. For his Physical Education credit, he was just asked to complete a chart stating he did some walking during one week. Other red flags: cash only, no communication via email or mail, countless unanswered phone calls, and not a single teacher to be found.
The “student” was never given a single test, saw a teacher, or received feedback from a teacher. Yet, as reported on CBS DFW, he received not only a diploma but also a transcript with grades in several subjects.
Unless a high school is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, a diploma or transcript is not guaranteed to be accepted by colleges, training schools, or employers. In the case of I. Jean Cooper, the school says it is accredited by National Accreditation Agency. But that agency isn’t a member of the Texas Private School Accreditation Commission (TEPSAC), an association of accrediting agencies recognized by the State of Texas for the purpose of accrediting private schools. Although accreditation by TEPSAC is not required of Texas private schools, consumers should be aware that claims of accreditation by non-TEPSAC agencies can be an attempt to provide the consumer with an unwarranted sense of legitimacy.
The BBB Business Review for I. Jean Cooper Private School shows that it has a BBB rating of F, due to unanswered complaints and BBB concerns about its advertising.
BBB Dallas checked out another private home-study school, New Beginnings Christian Preparatory Academy. This school says it’s accredited by National Association of Private Schools, but that agency isn’t a TEPSAC-approved agency either.
The Dallas Morning News reported, “Literacy advocates say there’s a burgeoning market of groups that claim to be private accredited schools peddling useless high school diplomas.”
Worthless diplomas are offered online as well. Yahoo Shine reported that a woman in Michigan paid $300 to an online school, but was rejected by two colleges for having a fake diploma. “She later discovered that the school was based somewhere in Pakistan,” the article said.
How can you check out a private home-study high school? BBB suggests —
- Get information about the school’s accreditation. Check with the accrediting agency to make sure the school is accredited.
- In Texas, find out whether the accrediting agency is associated with TEPSAC. Accreditation by a TEPSAC affiliated agency will increase the likelihood that credits earned in the private school can transfer to a Texas public school if the student ever switches schools.
- In other states, check with your state’s education agency for guidance on accreditation.
- Ask colleges, training schools, or potential employers if diplomas and transcripts from the school will be accepted.
- Check out the school and the accrediting agency with BBB. Start at bbb.org. BBB Business Reviews include complaint details, if any, along with the BBB rating from A+ to F and the reason(s) for the rating.
- Make sure you know all the costs and requirements to earn the diploma, and the school’s policies on cancellations and refunds, if any.