OPM ends diploma mill acceptance

The Office of Personnel Management pulled the plug Thursday on using credentials from so-called diploma mills to qualify for a federal job and cut off tuition reimbursements to federal workers who take courses from those unaccredited institutions.

In a strongly worded memo to federal managers, OPM Director Kay Coles James established a clear policy against using credentials from unaccredited institutions to get a job, a raise or reimbursement from the federal government for taking courses.

"There is no place in federal employment for degrees or credentials from diploma mills," James wrote. "They may not be used to qualify for federal jobs or salaries. You may not send employees to diploma mills for degree training or any other form of education. You may not reimburse employees for tuition associated with these schools. You may not use your authority to repay student loans if the degree is from a diploma mill."

OPM defined diploma mills as institutions that are not accredited and that award degrees or certificates with little or no coursework completed by the student. They often award degrees based largely on assessing a student's "life experiences" or for cash.

James issued the memo following investigations by Congress and the General Accounting Office into the proliferation of diploma mills. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, held a hearing on the practice May 11.

The controversy erupted after Laura Callahan resigned as deputy chief information officer at the Homeland Security Department following disclosures she had obtained three degrees from diploma mills.

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