Collins: No bucks for diploma mills

Kay Coles James

Henrik G. de Gyor

Sen. Susan M. Collins last month urged the Office of Personnel Management to 'close a legal loophole that enables federal employees to use federal funds to pay for coursework from diploma mills.'

OPM director Kay Coles James said she would work with Collins, chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, to solve the education credential problem. She praised the Maine Republican for her work on the issue and cited OPM efforts.

In a letter to James, Collins said: 'I would urge you to issue regulations that would prevent a federal agency from underwriting a diploma mill degree by paying for imagined or substandard coursework.

'Diploma mill credentials devalue the legitimate degrees earned by millions of individuals through hard work, persistence and achievement.'

Collins' statement noted that several diploma mills' promotional materials suggest that agencies may reimburse their employees for coursework.

The senator praised James' plan to hold seminars this month for federal officials on how to verify educational credentials.

Meanwhile, the General Accounting Office is investigating the use of questionable credentials.

One source close to the investigations of diploma mill degrees said federal law already generally bars the government from paying for degrees obtained by Pentagon employees from unaccredited institutions.

A provision of the U.S. Code says Defense Department employees can be reimbursed for postsecondary education only if it is part of a Pentagon-approved professional development program and offered by an accredited institution.

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