‘Credit mills’ stack the odds against hard-working high-schoolers


A student’s high school transcript should speak to their academic abilities, not their ability to buy their grades. 

Inflated marks from certain private schools dubbed ‘credit mills’ have made it increasingly difficult for universities to differentiate between prospective students who have and haven’t earned their high school grades. These credit mills allow students to earn competitive marks in their high school courses in exchange for steep tuition prices. 

Schools that facilitate this type of grading enable academic fraudulence. The students who receive high marks without putting in an appropriate amount of work and effort 

are competing with other university applicants who earned their grades honestly, and to take away acceptances and scholarships from other students.

Ontario’s education system is far from balanced. Public, private, and religious school boards differ in funding, opportunities, and quality of education, even from school to school. The existence of credit mills further exaggerates this imbalance. 

Credit mills further socioeconomic and intersectional barriers to education when undeserving upper-class students are awarded coveted spots at universities and grade-related scholarships over lower-income students who can’t afford to attend these private schools, but earned their grades honestly. 

These schools also hinder the learning of the students who attend them. These students, who enter university without developing strong work habits and academic strategies, often don’t have the necessary tools to succeed in university. If they’re ill-prepared for their spots at university, they may be squandering an opportunity that a peer worked hard for and didn’t receive.

Universities have developed several strategies to combat student transcripts with inflated grades. For example, the University of Waterloo appraises applicants marks based on the schools they graduated from, and deflates student’s grades if graduates from their high school have consistently performed significantly worse in their first years of university. 

But this system operates on a case-by-case basis for secondary schools—it’s a temporary solution that lumps together prospective students from the same high schools. In order to effectively combat credit mills, it’s incumbent on Ontario’s provincial government to prevent inflated marks from reaching universities in the first place.

Investments must be made in a stricter, more effective regulation system for private education in the province to prevent credit mills from slipping under the radar. Schools must be held accountable for academic dishonesty and falsified marks. Institutions that prove to prioritize a student’s wealth over their commitment to learning should have their credit-granting authority revoked. 

University is a competitive environment, from the application process to academics after acceptance. 

The students who deserve the opportunity to pursue post-secondary education are the ones who earned it—not the ones who bought it.

—Journal Editorial Board


All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.