Virtually Worthless

While I advocate for free cool online tools, there is a whole industry of The-Cost-Is-Too-High worthless online schools who are claiming accreditation with no regulation or accountability.  The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting has an excellent story about these schools called Virtually Worthless:

According to national statistics, only 70% of children graduate from state-accredited high schools across the country.  In the 2004 National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 85% of adults responded that they had a high school or equivalency diploma.  In its history, only 17 million people have earned the nationally recognized GED credential–if they are all still living & in the U.S., that accounts for less than 5% of the current population.  This means that in 2004, over 10% of adults in the country *believe* they have earned a high school or equivalency diploma, but not from the GED.  The GED is regulated by the American Council on Education and is the closest equivalency with near-universal acceptance: accepted by 97% of colleges & universities and 96% of employers.

The problem is, there are a few (only very few, in my experience) legitimate programs out there with “alternative” accreditations, but how is the average consumer supposed to gauge whether their supposed diploma will be accepted by employers, colleges and universities?  For adults looking for a high school diploma, I think the best option is to start with your long term goal: go to the employer human resources department, or the college or university admissions department and ask what credentials they accept and what standards they are looking for.  If you don’t have a long-term goal, the safest bet is to try the GED test.  But be warned: any educational credential worth having will take work, and will involve your skills & work being evaluated by professionals.  The GED test is difficult and will require months if not years of studying for the average person to prepare.  It represents the kind of skill level employers & colleges are looking for, and indeed most want even higher than the GED level in writing and math skills.  So why pay for less?  It’s a waste of money.  These diploma-mills are an entire unregulated industry affecting millions of U.S. citizens and residents and this problem demands attention.

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