Editorial: Lessons learned

Word that Laura Callahan, former deputy chief information officer at the Homeland Security Department, resigned last week after being on administrative leave for nine months ends a tumultuous chapter for federal workers.

Callahan was accused of having padded her résumé with degrees from so-called diploma mills. These diploma mills sell bogus academic degrees based on life experiences or "substandard or negligible academic work," as the General Accounting Office said in a report last November.

Fake degrees are a problem for agencies, but they raise larger fundamental questions about fairness.

"No applicant for a job — whether it's in the private sector or federal government — should lose out to a candidate because that candidate holds a bogus degree," Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said last year.

Saying we are against souped-up résumés seems a little like coming out in favor of apple pie. The question now is what have we learned.

Some minor moves have been made in an attempt to deal with diploma mills. Education Department officials agreed earlier this year to look into creating a list of accredited colleges and universities, possibly even publishing that list online.

We understand the complications of creating a list of unaccredited schools — such a list, even one put online, would be out of date as soon as it was posted. But we are confused about why Education officials have to think twice about posting a list of accredited schools.

Such a listing would help more than feds — it would help prospective students, parents and employers identify institutions that offer legitimate degrees.

But this issue needs ongoing attention. Collins, chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, have kept a watchful eye. We urge them to continue their oversight role.


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