FTC: Stratford College Charged Students for Worthless High School Diplomas
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FTC: Stratford College Charged Students for Worthless High School Diplomas

February 19, 2016

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has charged another online school for misleading students about its high school equivalency program.

The complaint charges that Stratford College's program fails to meet the basic requirements set by most states, leaving students with a worthless piece of paper for which they paid nearly $1,000.

In its complaint, the FTC alleges that Stratford's extensive advertising for its high school program included multiple references to a high school diploma leading to an increase in earning potential, access to better jobs and promotions, and the ability to apply for higher education. Additionally, the school purchased online purchased online advertising tied to search terms like official high school diploma, real high school diploma online, and legal high school diploma.

The program, however, fell short of its promises.

Stratford's own records, the complaint alleges, show that consumers who tried to use the Stratford diplomas were often told by prospective employers and college admissions officers that the program was not the same as a traditional high school. The complaint notes that the Stratford program requires only 18 credits for completion, while many states require substantially more, including credits in courses not offered by Stratford.

The complaint alleges that Stratford violated the FTC Act's prohibition on deceptive acts by making false and unsubstantiated promises to consumers.

Earlier this month, the FTC filed similar complaints against two online diploma mills that also charged students hundreds of dollars for a high school diploma that did not meet minimum standards.