Education to list accredited schools online

Education Department secretary Rod Paige said the department is preparing to post an online list of accredited higher-education institutions, as requested by Senate Governmental Affairs Committee chairwoman Susan Collins (R-Maine).

The proposal for a credible and accessible list emerged from a so-called diploma mill summit held in January by executive and legislative branch officials.

Collins and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) have said they will schedule hearings on the matter after the General Accounting Office reports on its investigation, probably next month.

Paige said in a Feb. 23 letter to Collins that Sally L. Stroup, assistant secretary for postsecondary education, will lead the listing project.

Collins praised Paige's action, saying in a statement that she is "pleased that the department has agreed to move forward with this project, which will help agencies comply with federal law regarding tuition payments."

In previous correspondence about diploma mills, Collins said a consolidated list of accredited schools would help employers, prospective students and parents make sure the credentials they seek or review represent authentic educational achievements. Existing methods of verifying accreditation can require laborious and confusing research, she said, as well as fool searchers who find misleading statements by bogus accreditation mills.

Paige said Stroup's staff is developing a proposal to draw up a so-called positive list of authentic schools and pinpoint any problems in making that information available to the government and the public. "Diploma mills and the bogus degrees they market devalue legitimate education credentials and in some cases pose genuine threats to the safety and well-being of Americans," Paige wrote.

The diploma mill issue entered the limelight last year when an investigation by Washington Technology and Government Computer News revealed that dozens of federal employees and contractors hold questionable degrees.

(Posted Feb. 27 and revised March 2)

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