Accountability

Investigation, Hearings Target Online ‘Diploma Mills’

By Andrew Trotter — May 05, 2004 2 min read

Congressional hearings in Washington next week will highlight an investigation into whether high-ranking employees in nine federal agencies—including the Department of Education—have used spurious academic degrees to get their jobs or promotions.

The hearings are part of a broader effort by some members of Congress and the Education Department to warn of the harm posed by “diploma mills,” substandard or fraudulent providers of degrees that experts say have been proliferating in the United States and overseas.

Experts point out that diploma or degree mills today conduct their business online, accepting fees and assigning students credits and degrees based on information on their applications, and sometimes for minor academic tasks.

Sen. Susan M. Collins, R-Maine, who will chair the May 11 and 12 hearings of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said that when individuals with phony credentials assume federal positions of great responsibility, the result is eroded confidence in the federal workforce, devaluation of legitimate education, and even serious concerns about public safety.

Sen. Collins and Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., initiated an inquiry by the General Accounting Office last July that was prompted by the case of Laura L. Callahan, an official at the Department of Homeland Security. Ms. Callahan listed on her résumé bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Hamilton University, an unaccredited school in Evanston, Wyo., that reportedly requires little academic work, according to Ms. Collins.

Hamilton University officials were unavailable for comment.

Ms. Callahan had been on administrative leave since June 2003. She resigned from the Department of Homeland Security in March, according to a department spokesman. The GAO’S findings, scheduled to be released at the hearings next week, also focus on whether federal employees are using federal funds to obtain bogus degrees.

Sen. Collins contends that a loophole in regulations may allow employees to use federal money to pay for coursework from diploma mills. She points out that some diploma mills advertise that federal money can be used to pay for their courses.

Legitimate List

In another development, the Education Department is organizing a new list of accredited and other legitimate institutions of higher education in the United States. The list will allow prospective employers to check on which degrees are legitimate, including those from online institutions, said Andrea Hofelich, a staff member of the Governmental Affairs Committee.

The idea to develop a new list came out of a Washington “summit” on diploma mills that U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige convened in January.

The gathering brought together representatives of various federal agencies and officials from states—specifically, Illinois, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Oregon—that have laws against the use of degrees from diploma mills.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
Family Engagement for Student Success With Dr. Karen Mapp
Register for this free webinar to learn how to empower and engage families for student success featuring Karen L. Mapp.
Content provided by Panorama Education & PowerMyLearning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Senior Business Analyst - 12 Month Contract
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
User Experience Analyst
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Senior Director Marketing
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Camelot Education
Coordinator of Strategic Partnerships
Camden, New Jersey, United States
Camelot Education

Read Next

Accountability Opinion What Should School Accountability Look Like in a Time of COVID-19?
Remote learning is not like in person, and after nine months of it, data are revealing how harmful COVID-19 has been to children's learning.
6 min read
Image shows a speech bubble divided into 4 overlapping, connecting parts.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty and Laura Baker/Education Week
Accountability State Schools Chiefs Push Biden for Wiggle Room on Accountability During Pandemic
State schools chiefs say it's necessary to change how they use scores from mandated annual tests during the unprecedented disruption created by the coronavirus pandemic.
4 min read
Image of students taking a test.
smolaw11/iStock/Getty
Accountability Could Biden Find a Middle Path on Student Testing During the Pandemic?
Waiving some portions of federal law could help the Biden administration craft a compromise on tests, but pressing questions would remain.
6 min read
President-elect Joe Biden speaks as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris listens during an event in Wilmington, Del., introducing their nominees and appointees to economic policy posts.
President-elect Joe Biden speaks as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris listens during an event in Wilmington, Del., introducing their nominees and appointees to economic policy posts.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Accountability GreatSchools' Ratings Revamp Credits Schools for Boosting Academic Growth
The schools rating website gives heavier weight to schools that are making strong academic growth and supporting historically disadvantaged students.
3 min read