A confused man on his computer.

Returning to college and continuing an education is a dream for many students. However, with so many online learning scams out there, that dream can quickly become a stressful and expensive nightmare. 

At SDSU Global Campus, we offer dozens of online learning programs, ranging from professional certificates and bachelor’s and master’s degree completion programs to international programs and lifelong learning opportunities. Being a part of a nationally recognized university not only makes us an accredited college, but it also means we offer many of the same programs with the same instructors as you’d get on campus at SDSU

With the flexibility and convenience that online learning offers, online college programs are becoming increasingly popular. Unfortunately, with the rise of online learning comes the increase of online learning scams. 

Luckily, there are ways to navigate the realm of online learning and find a quality program that suits you. Here are five common red flags in many online learning scams, followed by some tips and tricks to help avoid them. 

1: No Accreditation Status 

Finding a quality institution is one of the most crucial steps to take as you look to enroll in an online learning program. According to U.S. News, the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) must accredit each online learning program to qualify it as legitimate.  SDSU is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and many of the university’s programs require accreditation by national organizations such as the American Psychological Association and the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

If you want to study to enter an industry that requires a specific license, you should always ensure that the program you are interested in offers that license. If necessary, the program should also be reviewed and approved by the state licensing board to be qualified as accredited. 

Verifying the accreditation status before enrolling in a program is of the utmost importance. As a result, most legitimate institutions will have accreditation information listed prominently on their websites. If you’re unsure whether a university is accredited, contact the U.S. Department of Education or the CHEA to ask any questions or concerns. 

2: Suspicions or Illegitimate Web Addresses 

Another tip to seek out any red flags is to check the web address of the institution you’re interested in taking online courses with. Most universities have URLs that end in a .edu. Therefore, the easiest way to determine if an institution’s website is legitimate is to confirm that the website’s URL ends with the appropriate domain.  SDSU Global campus is a unit of SDSU and our website is built on the university’s web architecture, sdsu.edu.

The same logic applies to social media profiles as well. Most accredited universities will have accounts on various social media platforms that include a “.edu” link that directs users to its homepage. If you’re seeing unverified social media accounts claiming to be from a university, it’s best to steer clear.

3: High-Pressure Sales Tactics 

If a recruiter from an online institution insists you enroll with high-pressure sales tactics, chances are they may be part of an online learning scam. According to the Close Sales Blog, a blog dedicated to exploring sales techniques and trends, some high-pressure sales tactics include: 

  • Offering “limited time” discounts that are not time-sensitive
  • Making too many phone calls and sending repeated emails 
  • Suggesting irrelevant upsells or add-ons 
  • Discrediting competitors 
  • Using language that invokes fear of missing out 
  • Not taking “no” for an answer 
  • Intimidation, no matter how minuscule it may seem 

An accredited university will have a team of employees responsible for increasing sales using ethical tactics. These employees, commonly known as recruiters, will follow guidelines and procedures that procure potential students in a non-invasive manner. 

4: Lack of Cost Transparency 

When enrolling in an online program, you should pay attention to every fee, as many phony institutions will be very discreet regarding the cost of the program they are trying to sell. Recruiters from these online learning scams will often disguise their program as an affordable option. 

Once they reel you in, you may get charged many irrelevant fees. More often than not, these fees pose as service, enrollment, or other generic fees without a reason they are required. However, these fees don’t exist and are just a method to suck more money out of your wallet. 

Most legitimate colleges or universities will be upfront and fully transparent about the cost of their programs and courses. There should be no confusion surrounding fees and the total cost of an online learning program. 

5: False Promises 

One of the most common tactics among online learning scams is false promises. It’s an instant red flag if a college or university claims that enrolling in one of their programs will guarantee employment or a specific salary. 

A legitimate educational institution will not make any promises it cannot uphold. Instead, the website will likely include salary ranges, popular job titles, and common career paths that graduates take. 

Now that you know more about online learning scams and how to avoid them, you are ready to take the next step. Enroll in one of our accredited online learning programs today to advance your career and better your future.