More diploma investigation likely

Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs

Though still awaiting the report from a General Accounting Office investigation into fraudulent diploma mills, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee may request a broader study, according to a committee spokesperson.

"The committee may consider enlarging the scope of the investigation to include other agencies," said Andrea Hofelich, committee communications director.

GAO officials have been investigating the use of diploma mill degrees -- those obtained from unaccredited institutions for little or no work -- by federal employees to obtain positions and promotions within the government, and they are also looking to see if those degrees were paid for with federal funds.

Committee Chairwoman Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, requested the GAO report in July 2003.

The committee anticipates receiving the GAO report "around February", according to Hofelich.

Today's acknowledgment from Hofelich comes on the heels of a Jan. 15 diploma mill summit, in which a proposal was made for the Education Department to develop an online list of accredited institutions.

Along with committee staff members, officials from the Education Department, GAO, Office of Personnel Management, FBI, Federal Trade Commission and the states of Illinois, New Jersey, North Dakota and Oregon, attended last week's summit.

The diploma mill problem came into the spotlight in June 2003 when Laura Callahan, a former deputy chief information officer at the Homeland Security Department, was exposed for holding degrees from Hamilton University, an institution that grants degrees based on life experiences.

Collins has worked for more than two years to expose the problems associated with diploma mills. Through her own office's investigation, Collins was able to obtain two degrees from unaccredited Lexington University in 2001.

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