Senator Collins Praises Education Dept. for Creating Online List of Accredited Institutions

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) today praised the Department of Education for agreeing to create an online list of accredited institutions, which would help employers, prospective students, and parents distinguish legitimate schools from diploma mills. In January, Senator Collins sent a letter to Secretary Paige urging his agency to immediately begin creating such a list.

“I asked Secretary Paige to implement an online list of accredited schools, taking into account both schools in the process of seeking accreditation and those that met Department of Education-recognized standards but chose not to seek accreditation,” said Senator Collins. “I am very pleased that the Department has agreed to move forward with this project, which will help federal agencies comply with federal law regarding tuition payments, as well as prospective students and parents trying to determine the legitimacy of various schools.”

In January, in response to a request made by Senator Collins, Education Secretary Rod Paige hosted the first-ever “diploma mill summit” to coordinate efforts to crack down on the use of fake degrees to obtain employment or promotions. Committee staff met with representatives from the Department of Education, Office of Personnel Management, General Accounting Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Trade Commission, and officials from Oregon, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Illinois, whose states have passed laws cracking down on diploma mills. At the end of the daylong meeting, representatives agreed that the Department of Education should explore the possibility of creating an authoritative list of accredited institutions, easily accessible over the Internet. Following the summit, Senator Collins sent her letter to Secretary Paige.

In response, Secretary Paige wrote, “As you indicated in your letter, the consensus of the participants in the summit was supportive of creating a ‘positive list’ of institutions that are accredited by agencies recognized by the Department of Education. Sally L. Stroup, Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, is taking the lead in this effort. Her staff is currently developing a proposal to accomplish this and to identify any potential challenges that will need to be addressed in making information available to government personnel and others in an accurate and useful form.”

Senator Collins has been working for more than two years to expose the problems associated with diploma mill degrees. In July 2003, Senator Collins and House Government Reform Committee Tom Davis (R-VA) asked the 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. The Committee is considering holding hearings on the GAO report and diploma mills in the coming months.