GAO uncovers bogus degrees

Hundreds of federal employees obtained phony academic degrees from so-called diploma mills, and many of them used money from federal programs to buy their diplomas, officials at the General Accounting Office said today.

The GAO investigation said the Internet has allowed online diploma mills to flourish, and the extent of the problem cannot be measured in the federal government. The investigation said some high-ranking federal officials have listed degrees from diploma mills on an official application or security clearance record. Others obtained degrees for life experiences without any academic work or classroom instruction.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, which requested the investigation, said the GAO report calls into question the qualifications and ability of some federal workers to do their jobs.

In addition, she said, there is "clear evidence that tax dollars are being wasted on bogus degrees from unaccredited institutions that the federal government does not even recognize."

The GAO investigation found that 28 high-ranking officials at eight federal agencies hold degrees from diploma mills and at least 463 students from three unaccredited schools work for the federal government. That includes more than 200 working at the Defense Department.

In addition, data from just two unaccredited schools revealed nearly $170,000 in tuition payments from the federal government.

Collins began an investigation into diploma mills two years ago, but it became a scandal last year when Laura Callahan, the former deputy chief information officer at the Homeland Security Department, resigned following disclosures that she had obtained three phony academic degrees.

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