Summit next week on dubious degrees

Federal and state officials plan to meet Jan. 15 in Washington to brainstorm approaches for dealing with government employees who claim educational degrees from unaccredited institutions or diploma mills.

Sources at several agencies said the meeting would include officials from the Education Department, the General Accounting Office, the Office of Personnel Management, the Office of Management and Budget, and congressional committees engaged in the credentials issue.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the meeting will foster a no-holds-barred atmosphere for problem solving. Members of the public will not be allowed to attend, they said.

Education secretary Roderick Paige wrote in October to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, saying the department would convene the meeting in response to her request for action.

The questionable credentials surfaced last year in reports, first published by PostNewsweek Tech Media publications Government Computer News and Washington Technology, that Laura Callahan, senior director in the office of the Homeland Security Department CIO, held three degrees from a diploma mill in Wyoming.

A subsequent investigation by PostNewsweek Tech Media found numerous other federal employees with degrees from unaccredited institutions. Since then, Callahan has been placed on administrative leave with pay, and investigations are under way at GAO, DHS, and the offices of Sen. Collins and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.).

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