By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The BBC reported that when Peter Smith got a diploma last semester from American University of London, no one was prouder – or more surprised – than his owner. Peter Smith is a dog. But, in this internet age when legitimate classes are given – and credit received – on line, how do you know if you’re paying for a legitimate course?

In the United States, you may be surprised to learn that the Department of Education does not accredit colleges or degree programs, but by law it does publish a list of reliable accrediting agencies.

If you are considering a degree program or institution of higher learning, find out if it is accredited and, if so, by whom.

As with any other advertising, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is: many fake degree programs promise degrees with no tests, no classes, and no papers.

If it’s enough to make the people at Cliffs notes suspicious – and that genius dog of yours – it should probably tip you off that most employers wouldn’t consider it worth the paper it isn’t printed on.

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