No run-of-the-mill controversy

Steve LeSueur

Two lawmakers have turned up the heat on investigations into whether federal employees are padding their resumes with degrees from diploma mills.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, has asked the General Accounting Office to investigate the use of diploma mill degrees and credentials by federal employees, including whether the federal government has paid for or reimbursed tuition costs for these degrees

Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, wants GAO to investigate how federal agencies ensure that their employees have earned degrees from accredited institutions when those employees receive promotions based on their academic credentials.

These requests came following a report by Washington Technology and its sister publication,Government Computer News, that a high-ranking IT official with the Homeland Security Department lists three degrees on her resume from an unaccredited school. Laura Callahan, senior director in the CIO's office, obtained her bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees from Hamilton University, Evanston, Wyo., which requires little academic work.

Since writing that first story, Staff Writers Patience Wait and Wilson P. Dizard III have uncovered evidence suggesting that Callahan is not the only federal employee listing degrees from unaccredited schools on his or her resume. In fact, Patience and Wilson turned up more than 50 government and contractor IT workers claiming such degrees.

Our reporters also talked with personnel experts, who were uncertain whether this is a widespread problem. But all agreed that using degrees from diploma mills is a form of deception that can hurt a business or agency.

"Nobody can be satisfied with having a federal employee who is selected on the basis of having a degree that is, in fact, not a real degree," one executive said.

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