Washington, DC – Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) today praised the implementation of a web site that is designed to help prospective college students identify colleges and universities that are properly accredited by the U.S. Department of Education (ED). The web site will also help employers to determine whether a prospective employee received his or her higher education degree from a legitimate school. The ED produced this list of accredited colleges and higher education programs in response to a request that Senator Collins made during an investigation, which she initiated as Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of so-called diploma mills. Diploma mills are organizations that offer phony educational degrees, most often online.
“I am pleased that the Department of Education has responded to my request to give college students this important tool. Now, with the click of a mouse, students can ensure that they are getting a legitimate degree from an accredited institution, and government agencies and other employers can ensure they are not hiring workers with phony degrees,” said Senator Collins. “Our investigations have shown that diploma mills not only cheat students of their money by giving them useless degrees, they also end up scamming the federal government and businesses that may hire workers who hold these bogus diplomas.”
It was January of last year, when Senator Collins first urged the former Secretary of Education, Rod Paige, to implement a web-based list of accredited schools. Secretary Paige informed Senator Collins two weeks ago that it had completed the web site and was making it available to the public, saying, “I appreciate your efforts to call attention to the problem and believe that the list of postsecondary institutions accredited by recognized agencies is an important step in combating this threat.” The ED’s list of accredited institutions and programs is available online at: http://www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation/. It should be noted however, that if a school is not on the list, it does not necessarily mean it is a diploma mill, but that the prospective student or employer should take special care to check whether the school is legitimate.
Senator Collins has long been concerned about the problems associated with diploma mills. As Chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, she asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into the problem. GAO investigators were able to purchase bogus Biology and Medical Technology degrees in Senator Collins’ name. Last year, as the Chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, Senator Collins held a series of hearings that uncovered evidence that the federal government had unknowingly used taxpayer dollars to reimburse some employees for degrees they earned at phony colleges.
Senator Collins continues to work to protect students, the federal government, and employers from diploma mills. She is currently working with the Department of Defense to determine whether federal taxpayer dollars were used to pay for degrees received by Pentagon workers from illegitimate institutions.