Note to self: trademark the University of Drezner
Yesterday the GAO issued a report entitled “Diploma Mills Are Easily Created and Some Have Issued Bogus Degrees to Federal Employees at Government Expense.” This snippet, from the results in brief, discusses the actions of the GAO’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI): OSI purchased two degrees from a diploma mill through the Internet. After identifying ...
Yesterday the GAO issued a report entitled "Diploma Mills Are Easily Created and Some Have Issued Bogus Degrees to Federal Employees at Government Expense." This snippet, from the results in brief, discusses the actions of the GAO's Office of Special Investigations (OSI):
Yesterday the GAO issued a report entitled “Diploma Mills Are Easily Created and Some Have Issued Bogus Degrees to Federal Employees at Government Expense.” This snippet, from the results in brief, discusses the actions of the GAO’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI):
OSI purchased two degrees from a diploma mill through the Internet. After identifying “Degrees-R-Us” as a diploma mill, our investigator held numerous discussions in an undercover capacity with its owner. Posing as a prospective student, the investigator first contacted Degrees-R-Us to obtain information regarding the steps to follow in purchasing degrees. Following those instructions, we purchased a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and a Master of Science degree in Medical Technology. The degrees were awarded by Lexington University, a nonexistent institution purportedly located in Middletown, New York. We provided Degrees-R-Us with references that were never contacted and paid a $1,515 fee for a “premium package.” The package included the two degrees with honors and a telephone verification service that could be used by potential employers verifying the award of the degrees. OSI also created a diploma mill to test vulnerabilities in the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFEL). We created Y’Hica Institute for the Visual Arts, a fictitious graduate-level foreign school purportedly located in London, England. We first created a bogus consulting firm that posed as Y’Hica’s U.S. representative and the principal point of contact with the Department of Education (Education). In addition, we created a Web site and set up a telephone number and a post office box address for Y’Hica. Using counterfeit documents, we obtained certification from Education for the school to participate in the FFEL program. Education has since reported that it has taken steps to guard against the vulnerabilities that were revealed by our investigation. (emphases added)
I’m trying to visualize the bull session at which GAO staffers came up with the name “Y’Hica Institute for the Visual Arts.” Readers are invited to submit their preferred name for a diploma mill (obvious jokes about Harvard will be treated with casual scorn). Hmmm…. on the off chance that the Department of Education hasn’t closed that loophole, maybe academic blogs can find another revenue-generating stream? UPDATE: Here’s a news recap of the report:
How many senior level employees in the federal government have degrees from diploma mills? The real answer: no one knows. That is the conclusion of the GAO’s Robert J. Cramer, Managing Director for GAO’s Office of Special Investigations, who testified before a Congressional subcommittee on the issue. A recent investigation found that there is a problem but there isn’t a system in place to accurately verify the validity of educational degrees claimed by federal employees. Having said that, it is clear that some senior federal employees have obtained degrees from educational companies that do not require any work to earn the degrees. GAO defines diploma mills as nontraditional, unaccredited, postsecondary schools offering degrees for a low flat fee, promoting the award of academic credits based on life experience, and not requiring classroom instruction…. GAO asked the Department of Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Transportation, Veterans Administration, Small Business Administration and Office of Personnel Management for information. 28 senior employees in these listed degrees from unaccredited schools, and 1 employee received tuition reimbursement of $1,787.44 toward a degree from a diploma mill. The final result is that agencies are not able to provide reliable data because they do not have systems to verify academic degrees or to detect fees for degrees disguised as payment for individual training courses. Additionally, the agency data GAO found do not reflect the extent to which senior-level federal employees have diploma mill degrees. This is because the agencies do not sufficiently verify the degrees that employees claim to have or the schools that issued the degrees.
Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and co-host of the Space the Nation podcast. Twitter: @dandrezner
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