… is featured in this Wired story about diploma mills.

… In 2003 and 2004, the Government Accountability Office surveyed just a handful of agencies and found 463 federal employees with fraudulent degrees.

The diploma operations thrive in part because of a lack of centralized oversight of higher education in the US. The Department of Education leaves the job of accreditation to a group of nongovernmental agencies, which in turn grant institutions the authority to award degrees. All other rules, as well as penalties for fraud, are up to the individual states — which are often lax about enforcement. (And no, the domain suffix .edu doesn’t guarantee authenticity.)

Fake institutions that pretend to be based abroad have an even easier time bringing in business and avoiding scrutiny. Governments generally don’t challenge the legitimacy of universities accredited overseas, which is why many bogus degree mongers create the appearance that their schools are foreign entities offering classes on the Web. And of course, the growing acceptance of online education has only provided more cover for this kind of scheme.

Modern diploma mills are also becoming increasingly industrious and sophisticated. They might send spam to a million people at a time and provide detailed transcripts and verification services. One of the latest tricks is establishing a fake accrediting agency to legitimize fake schools.

… [Gollin’s] aim … is to convince lawmakers that tougher criminal penalties are necessary to fight diploma mills. In 2006 he was elected to the board of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, and he recently teamed up with a congressperson from Minnesota to help draft a federal bill that would tighten the definition of an accredited institution…

UD thanks Bill for the link.

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