Important Changes to Our Diploma Pathways

We are in the process of re-tooling our diploma pathways program. Specifically, we are changing terminology to eliminate “diploma” and “major” and “minor”. Until we are ready to unveil the re-vamped information, our page at will redirect visitors to this blog post.

Here is the most important thing to note: this program is not disappearing. You still have the “diploma” certificates you have earned, but we have changed the wording on the issued certificates to eliminate the word “diploma”.. If you are currently working toward a pathway certificate, you should absolutely continue to do so.

In the interest of complete transparency, the issue is the word “diploma”. The Higher Education Licensing Commission (HELC) of the District of Columbia (where we are based) has informed us that our use of the word “diploma” is potentially misleading to students and must be changed.

Our talks with HELC have been entirely positive and we are making these changes quickly to show good faith with the regulations that our city has in place to protect students.

So far, in addition to taking down the Diploma Pathways page and removing other references, we have changed the templates of the diplomas to use the word “certificate” rather than “diploma”. This is a temporary change; in the coming days, we will:

  • Determine a different word or phrase to replace our use of the word “diploma”
  • Come up with different words or phrases to describe “majors” and “minors” in both legacy and current course pathways

Once again, please know that we love and intend to expand upon our course pathways formerly known as “diploma pathways”. The words have changed, but the facts of what students have accomplished or intend to accomplish remain the same. The issue is terminology and we simply have to make these changes in order to keep providing this program to our students.

Top Comments

  1. I think that's a smart change. Word choice is important, especially in the muddy area of education credentials.

  2. The word "diploma" is not misleading the students, It motivates the student to reach each goal, it gives us hope. The Higher Education Licensing Commission (HELC) of the District of Columbia leading us from "free" to "fee"...

    Diploma before: dreams come true, Now: "puff" gone.
    Diploma is my dream goal, pure trophy on my wall, my true motivation to study hard.

    Now my alternative Institution for free Education, free Diploma to achieved.

  3. Yes, we took them down so that we could make changes, but they will be back up quite soon and we will set the old link to redirect to the new one -- we have a new draft of the page nearly ready.

  4. I think we were quite careful in using the word "diploma" and avoiding the suggestion that ours would be a formal credential from an accredited institution. We have been careful about that from the start. I agree that the word has a strong motivational effect and carries a lot of meaning packaged withing that is very difficult to replicate. Unfortunately, it is because of those same qualities that we are now asked not to use the word.

    I take your meaning here to be that, by reserving the word "diploma" primarily for accredited, fee-charging institutions (or similar types of more formal/certified programs), the regulatory agencies undermine the value of free programs like ours and thereby encourage students, indirectly, to enter paid programs. That is a reasonable argument.

    Even most major MOOC providers, though, have moved toward paid certificates, wholly aside from any use of the word "diploma". We are committed to keeping our courses and certificates free.

  5. We just about have our wording down, but we're always open to new suggestions!

    The frustration we face is that the most appropriate, descriptive words are the ones we can't use, while alternatives seem kludgy, awkward, or simply generic.

    Gosh, maybe "meta-certificate" was the right word after all...

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