How to Avoid Getting Cheated by Phony Scholarships

A few predatory universities are looking for Arab students eager to study online cheaply, an Al-Fanar Media investigation has found. The “universities” try to seduce prospective students with offers of scholarships that are, in fact, just a way to pry money out of them.

The education students get, which involves zero contact with professors, won’t help them.  No internationally respected graduate school or employer who checks credentials will accept the degrees as valid. Graduates often get a diploma with an incorrect name on it and then are asked for more money to fix the error.

If it is any consolation, Arab students aren’t alone in being targeted. Any student who speaks English and who has a credit card or bank account is at risk.

Here’s how to protect yourself from being conned:

– Be suspicious of offers that seem too good to be true. Prospective students of these universities are presented with a chance to get what seem like very generous scholarships after providing only basic information such as their name and date of birth. Real scholarships are a lot tougher to get.

– Beware of scholarship offers that are conditional on immediate decisions. A common thread with fraudulent online universities is to propose a scholarship that will cover a large part of the fees, but will expire before the day’s end. The aim is to get money from you. A legitimate university would never use such high-pressure sales tactics. Real universities have deadlines for decisions but they are dates on a calendar, not 24 hours from the time of your phone call.

Below is a sample of such a conversation between a representative of one of the universities and a journalist posing as a student called Houston:


– Don’t be fooled by a professional-looking website. “If you go to their websites, it all looks fairly legitimate,” warns a physics professor George Gollin, who specializes in exposing bogus universities. “But you have to look further than that.”

– Check who accredits or verifies the quality of the university. A university should be able to tell you who accredits the institution. But fake universities sometimes work with fake accreditation organizations. If the university you are considering is based in the United States, then check that the Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes the organization that accredits it. A list of CHEA recognized accreditors is found here.

– Look for the university’s address. Once you have a physical address, check with the licensing authority in the appropriate country. Accredited institutions in the United States are listed in a database on the Department of Education website. For institutions based in the United Kingdom, use the website of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. Similarly, in other countries try to see if the university has appropriate local licensing or accreditation.

– Ask an admissions advisor at a reputable university if they would accept a degree from the university you are interested in attending.

– Watch out for certain institutions. Al-Fanar Media found that institutions called Hurst University, MUST University, Asherton University, Delaward University, Rellington University, and Presley University appear to be closely connected to the International Accreditation Organization, that does far less to verify the quality of institutions than the U.S. accreditors that are recognized by CHEA


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