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Illinois Board of Higher Education

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January 20, 2006


SPRINGFIELD – Students looking for the best college option to fit their needs – including tips to identify diploma mills and other consumer fraud – have a valuable new tool:

The Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) today launched a revamped website highlighted by a consumer information guide to help students navigate the sometimes daunting array of higher education opportunities.

“Higher education is more important today for more and more of our citizens than it’s ever been before,” Judy Erwin, Executive Director of the Board of Higher Education, says. “At the same time, the higher education landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, and our new website is an attempt to assist students and others in making wise and informed choices through a user-friendly environment designed to make them smarter consumers.”

The web guide includes a listing of key questions and issues for students to consider when shopping for a college, including information about:

  • Why college is increasingly important and what to expect from the collegiate experience,
  • What kinds of financial aid programs are available and how to apply for student assistance,
  • How higher education institutions differ in mission and purpose and what types of degrees, fields of study, and academic programs they offer,
  • How accreditation is different from state approval of programs, and why each is useful in evaluating institutions and academic offerings,
  • What distance learning opportunities are available and how to access them, and
  • How to seek accommodations for students with disabilities and what to do if you have a complaint about a college or university.

In addition, the website has links to carry consumers to other web pages where they can access financial aid applications, enroll in online classes, find out whether a college or university is accredited, and plumb deeper into understanding what collegiate opportunities may be right for them.

The consumer fraud section of the site explains what diploma mills are and lists common traits – no requirements for study, tests, or other academic assignments, for example, or having no faculty or classes – that will help consumers identify shady operations. The webpage suggests various questions to help consumers avoid being victimized by diploma mills, such as:

  • Can the degree be purchased?
  • Does the institution claim to be accredited but offer no evidence of accreditation by a legitimate agency?
  • Does the operation have state authority to operate and grant degrees?
  • Does the school require a very short period of time to earn a degree?

“Illinois has nearly 200 institutions of higher learning that offer quality academic programs and legitimate credentials,” Erwin said. “Consumers need to be aware that there also are bogus institutions operating – particularly in the hard-to-regulate online market – solely to take advantage of people. This website can make consumers more savvy in avoiding being the victim of the scam artists.”

The new IBHE website also introduces a new design aimed at making it more accessible and easy to use. The new home page, which features rotating photographs of Illinois colleges and universities, contains links to valuable higher education resources, information about grant programs, a daily digest of higher education news and roster of news releases from the Board and from colleges and universities, the Board’s annual collegiate artists competition, and a calendar of upcoming events and meetings.

Other links take users to in-depth information about academic programs, higher education budgets and appropriations, legislative affairs, grant programs, data and statistics, featured links to other prominent higher education or state and national websites, and various reports and studies ranging from the study of faculty salaries to listings of new academic programs to the annual report to the General Assembly on the progress of underrepresented groups in Illinois higher education.

“We are pleased to unveil this new website, which contains a wealth of information about Illinois’ stellar system of colleges and universities,” Erwin said.


Don Sevener



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