High School Diploma Scams

Thinking about getting your high school diploma? Many states have different options for getting your diploma, including new tests and programs. But scammers are setting up fake diploma sites to trick you into paying for their “diplomas.” Which turn out to be worthless.

Signs of a High School Diploma Scam

Here are some signs you’ve come across a scam:

You can get the diploma from home, ASAP

No classes? No in-person test? All online? That’s a scam. Legitimate programs with classes for credit mean you’ll invest weeks or months of time. And real high school equivalency tests are offered at specific days and times, not on-demand. Most people don’t pass without really studying.

You have to pay for a diploma

No legitimate high school equivalency program lets you take a test or classes for free, then charges you for the diploma. You might pay for classes or testing, but you shouldn’t have to pay for the diploma itself.

They claim to be affiliated with the federal government

The federal government doesn’t offer programs for earning high school diplomas. Legitimate tests or programs are approved by your state.

High School Equivalency Diplomas

If you didn’t graduate from high school, but want to get your diploma, you can get what’s called a “high school equivalency diploma” or “high school equivalency credential.” You earn them by taking a test or enrolling in programs to earn class credit.

You might have heard of the “GED” test. That’s one way to get your equivalency diploma — but it’s not the only way. There are other tests and programs to choose from, depending on where you live.

Earning a Diploma by Taking the GED or Other Tests

Many people earn a high school equivalency diploma by taking a test. Tests offer some flexibility, allowing you to study on your own time and at your own pace. But you have to take them at a set time and place, and the tests can be challenging. No state accepts an online high school equivalency test.

Each state decides which tests it will approve. Many states approve more than one test. The four tests approved by at least one state (as of May 2016) are the GED, HiSET, TASC, and CHSPE. The CHSPE is offered in California only. California employers are required to accept it as the equivalent of a high school diploma.

These are the ONLY legitimate high school equivalency tests. These tests are:

  • administered in person
  • proctored
  • closed-book
  • scheduled for specific dates and times

These tests also will require an authentication process to make sure the test taker is the person who signed up for the test. Costs range from $50-$100.

Earning a Diploma with Class Credit

Another way to get your diploma in some states is to take classes and earn credits. In most states, you’ll need to meet the same minimum credit requirements as a traditional high school student — though you might be exempt from P.E.

Classes that meet the requirements might be offered by:

  • community colleges
  • extension programs connected to a local college or university
  • adult education programs run by local high schools, school boards, nonprofits, state departments of education, or state workforce programs

Online classes

Most states will accept some credits from online classes, but typically only a few. Legitimate online courses will require you to do real class work — not just take a test. If an online class doesn’t require substantial reading, writing, or quizzes and tests — or you can finish it in a day —  it’s not the real thing.

A small group of states use the National External Diploma Program (NEDP) to give an alternate route to adult diplomas. NEDP uses online learning, but students still need to attend in-person evaluations, usually once a month. These evaluations are conducted by NEDP contractors, usually at the local community college, workforce development office, or extension office.

If you’re considering an online program, check with your state’s department of education to see if it’s accredited. Accreditation is a process where an established organization confirms a school meets a certain level of quality. Don’t take a program’s word for it — scammers make up accreditations, even creating fake organizations and websites to sell the lie. Many scammers might use the same phony accreditor. Any program run by your local school district or state doesn’t need accreditation.

Work and Life Experience

A small number of states let you earn some credits toward a high school diploma from work experience. But NO STATE lets you get a diploma with only work experience credits. Where work experience credits are accepted, you have to demonstrate your skills to an evaluator, or provide a credential like a professional license or vocational training certification.

If a program says you can earn your diploma with just “life experience,” it’s almost certainly a scam.

Who Can Help

To find out the options and requirements for your state, you can contact:

Your local community college

The college should be able to tell you which tests are accepted in your state, how to register, and what you’ll want to study. They might even offer classes to prepare for the test. You also can ask them what diplomas they accept when they admit students. Find yours at the American Association of Community Colleges website.

Your state Department of Education

The education department in your state should be able to tell you what tests are accepted there, whether an online program is approved, and how to find a legitimate program. Find your state’s department of education at the U.S. Department of Education website.

Test publishers

Do you think you’re interested in the HiSET, TASC, GED, or CHSPE? Contact them directly to find out more.