Government Accountability Office (GAO) Reports on Diploma Mills

April 16, 2006

Purchases of Degrees from Diploma Mills
GAO-03-269R  November 21, 2002

This report discusses the GAO investigation of diploma mills that illegally sell fraudulent academic degrees to individuals who use them to gain positions and increase income based upon these documents. Undercover investigators purchased a degree from a diploma mill to demonstrate how easily one can be purchased. Individuals who purchasing such documents were contacted and interviewed, which provided further evidence that Degrees-R-Us was a diploma mill. The owner was questioned and admitted to selling approximately 100 fraudulent degrees over the 2 years since his business began.

Diploma Mills: Federal Employees Have Obtained Degrees from Diploma Mills
and Other Unaccredited Schools, Some at Government Expense

GAO-04-771T  May 11, 2004

GAO conducted an investigation to determine whether the federal government had paid for degrees from diploma mills and other unaccredited postsecondary schools. Section 4107 of title 5, U. S. Code, only permits the federal government to pay for the cost of academic degree training provided by a college or university that is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting body. GAO was also asked to determine whether federal employees who hold senior-level positions have degrees from diploma mills and other unaccredited schools.

Three of the four unaccredited schools contacted by the investigators responded to requests for information and provided records that identified 463 students employed by the federal government. Two of the four provided records that federal agencies had paid them $150,387.80 for the fees of federal employee students. In addition, DOE and DOT advised that separate payments totaling $19,082.94 had been made for expenses associated with degrees from these two schools. However, the records provided by the schools and agencies probably understate the extent of federal payments for degrees at diploma mills and other unaccredited schools. Data provided by 8 agencies indicated that 28 senior-level employees had degrees from diploma mills and other unaccredited schools. In our follow-up interviews, six of these employees and their managerssaid that experience, rather than educational credentials, was considered in hiring and promotion decisions concerning these employees. This number appears to be an understatement of the actual number of employees at these 8 agencies who had degrees from diploma mills and other unaccredited schools.

Diploma Mills: Diploma Mills Are Easily Created and Some Have Issued
Bogus Degrees to Federal Employees at Government Expense

GAO-04-1096T,  September 23, 2004

This testimony discusses work done by GAO’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) related to degrees from “diploma mills.” The report defines “diploma mills” as nontraditional, unaccredited, postsecondary schools that offer degrees for a relatively low flat fee, promote the award of academic credits based on life experience, and do not require any classroom instruction. Over a three-year period, the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) purchased degrees from a diploma mill through the Internet, created a diploma mill in the form of a fictitious foreign school, investigated whether the federal government had paid for degrees from diploma mills for federal employees, and determined whether high-level federal employees at certain agencies had degrees from diploma mills.

This page was postedApril 16, 2006.