Chairmen Collins and Davis Ask GAO to Investigate Federal Funding of Diploma Mill Degrees

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) and House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) have asked the General Accounting Office (GAO) to investigate the use of “diploma mill” degrees to obtain positions and promotions with the federal government and whether those degrees were paid for with federal funds. Recent news reports and work previously conducted by the GAO suggests that this practice might be a widespread problem.

“The use of diploma mill degrees within the federal government, and the probability that federal funds have been used to defray the costs of such degrees, greatly concern us,” wrote Collins and Davis in their letter to the GAO. “We therefore request that your Office of Special Investigations investigate the fraudulent use of educational credentials to obtain positions and promotions-especially senior positions of trust-within the federal government, as well as whether federal government funds are being used to pay, in whole or in part, for diploma mill degrees.”

Diploma mills masquerade as legitimate institutions of higher learning, but the degrees they offer are awarded for a fee, not on the basis of coursework or academic achievement. This latest investigation was spurred in part by news that Laura Callahan, a high ranking official at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), obtained her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from Hamilton University, an unaccredited school in Evanston, Wyo., that reportedly requires little academic work.

Late last week, Collins also requested that the Department of Labor (DOL) provide information about whether Callahan had used her degrees to gain a promotion or bonus and whether the federal government helped to pay for those degrees. Callahan worked at DOL prior to DHS. Collins had made a similar request of DHS.

On June 26, Davis requested the Inspector General of DHS to examine why OPM’s discovery and report of Callahan’s suspect credentials to her former employer, DOL, were not taken seriously when named to her senior position at DHS.

“Postsecondary degrees are the keys to opening doors to the private sector job market and to federal agencies. It’s time to figure out whether we need to change the locks so that diploma mill degree holders are no longer allowed to compete with unfairly with the men and women have worked hard to earn legitimate degrees,” said Collins. “What’s more, taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for these bogus credentials and degrees.”

“Public trust in government is a key pillar of our democracy.” said Davis. “There is no place for diploma mill degree holders to work in our government, especially when we are talking about homeland security. We must and will get to the bottom of this situation.”

Collins and Davis will determine whether to hold hearings on the issue once the GAO has reported its findings.

Press Contacts:
Andrea Hofelich 202-224-4751 (Collins)
David Marin/Scott Kopple 202-225-5074 (Davis)