Miami Dade College

NBC 6 Investigation: Online Diplomas Not Worth Paper They're Printed On

Getting an online high school diploma might sound like a good idea, if it weren’t for the fact that you could get a diploma that is not worth the paper it is printed on.

NBC 6 Investigators decided to find out just how far a high school diploma from an online school would get you.

First, an NBC 6 Investigative producer paid $239 to Nation High School to obtain the diploma. Instead of having to take classes, the company converted her “life experience” into three semesters of classes and credits.

A week later, the diploma and transcripts from MaryGrand High School, a Nation High affiliate, arrived in the mail. The newly “graduated” producer took the diploma and transcripts to Barry University, Broward College and Miami Dade College where she encountered one rejection after another.

Annaleah Morrow, Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management at Broward College, said if a company demands payment upfront, that’s a big red flag.

“Students need to remember that when they were in high school, they were expected to work hard for their high school diploma,” Morrow said. “Online high school should be no different.

NBC 6 Investigators asked college admissions officials to review the diploma and transcripts.

Morrow said her first thought when she saw the diploma was clear: “…That this could have easily been printed by anyone with a nice color printer.”

Sarah Riley, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Barry University, also said the diploma is worthless.

“There’s no validation of four years of high school,” Riley said. “You need four years of English, math, science, social sciences as well as foreign language education.”

Further examination by college officials turned up another clue that the documents were bogus. Neither the diploma nor the transcripts had the school’s contact information or website url.

What consumers don’t know is Nation High and its affiliates have hundreds of unsatisfied customers who have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission. They say by complaining they found out the hard way that despite what the website leads consumers to believe, the school is not accredited by any organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Experts say they are nothing more than diploma mills and it’s a billion-dollar industry. Still, no federal or state agency regulates online schools so it’s impossible to know how many exist.

In 2010, Susan Knodel thought she was dealing with an accredited online high school when she enrolled her two teens in Nation High. Soon, the Knodels became one of the hundreds of families who had negative experiences with Nation High and its affiliates because they got worthless diplomas or no diploma at all.

“I asked for my money back and they won’t give me my money back,” Knodel said, noting that she paid Nation High more than $2,900.

NBC 6 Investigators called Mary Grand High twice in an attempt to obtain an explanation. The online school refunded the $239 fee for the diploma after the producer said she worked for NBC.

However, no one at Mary Grand High would explain why three colleges in South Florida rejected the diploma and transcripts. When she called to ask, the folks at Mary Grand High hung up on her twice.

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