Congressman Tim Bishop (D-NY) unveiled new legislation to shut down fraudulent “Diploma Mills” across the country. These fraudulent businesses market worthless degrees, tricking students out of hard-earned dollars and deceiving employers by falsely claiming an attained level of skill or achievement. Moreover, diploma mills create critical issues of personal and national security via their issuance of fraudulent scientific degrees that can be utilized to obtain entrance visas into the United States.
“Diploma mills have proliferated rapidly in recent years, creating dangerous vulnerabilities to our national security, while simultaneously undermining legitimate American institutions of higher education,” said Bishop, a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, who has worked on this issue for several years. “The Federal government can do more to protect the American public by preventing the expansion of these fraudulent enterprises. This is why I introduced the Diploma and Accreditation Integrity Protection Act.”
The press conference was held during the 2010 Council for Higher Education Accreditation Annual Conference and International Seminar in Washington, D.C. More than 300 participants from 32 countries met to hear leaders from government, U.S. and international higher education institutions, accrediting organizations and higher education associations address a range of issues including accreditation, quality assurance and accountability; combating degree mills and accreditation mills; and quality assurance practices in countries around the world.
During the press conference, Dr. George Gollin, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told how he aided a federal investigation into a multimillion dollar diploma mill called “St. Regis University,” which ran a network of bogus universities and fake government agencies. “We learned that St. Regis had sold ten thousand degrees to customers in over a hundred countries,” said Dr. Gollin. “We do not want untrained engineers designing our airliners or untrained physicians running pharmaceutical research programs. And we certainly do not want our children taught by teachers with purchased credentials.”
An alarming Government Accountably Office investigation of the credentials of a sampling of Federal employees revealed that, of the Federal employees selected for examination, 463 Federal employees held degrees from diploma mills and other unaccredited universities. The investigation also found that federal agencies have paid more than $150,000 in tuition payments to diploma mills and other unaccredited universities on behalf of Federal employees. More recently, an investigation undertaken in 2008 by federal authorities, including the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, discovered that at least 20 military personnel and an additional 10 federal employees either pursued or attained degrees from unaccredited diploma mills.
Diploma mills are clearly not a new problem; however expansion can be traced to inconsistent laws across states as well as to technological advances, such as the Internet and electronic mail. Recent criminal investigations of suspected diploma mills have exposed a tangled web of fraudulent behavior spanning across state lines and the United States border.
To prevent the expansion of these fraudulent enterprises, yesterday Rep. Bishop introduced the Diploma and Accreditation Integrity Protection Act (HR 4535) to:
- Legally define what it means to be a degree-granting institution
- Legally define what it means to be a legitimate accrediting agency
- Grant additional authority to the FTC to crack down on diploma mills.
The bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by Reps. Michael Castle (R-DE) and Betty McCollum (D-MN)
- WHNT/CBS investigative series provides further information on the dangers of diploma wills.
- Wired Magazine story details Dr. Gollin’s involvement in the St. Regis investigation.
This article was posted on February 6, 2010.