NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Federal Workers Use Tax Dollars for Fake Degrees

May 14, 2004

A new federal report raises concerns about the proliferation of diploma mills -- unaccredited schools that typically offer diplomas based on "life experience" for thousands of dollars in flat fees without any classroom instruction.

Washington lawmakers have taken notice because hundreds of government workers are attending or have attended such schools, with many receiving automatic pay increases as a result. Some of these fake degrees were also wrongly obtained at the taxpayer's expense, as federal agencies reimburse employees for course work only at accredited institutions. A report by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) found that:

  • About 463 federal employees have been enrolled or are currently enrolled at three unaccredited, distance-learning schools that require little, if any, classroom instruction.
  • Some 28 senior-level federal employees have degrees from unaccredited schools, including three Department of Energy managers with important ties to the National Nuclear Security Administration.
  • With the rise of the Internet, the number of diploma mills in America is estimated to have tripled over the past three years to at least 137.

The GAO said its report understates the number of federal employees with links to the fake schools because federal agencies often fail to verify educational records. As a result, agencies may be tricked by diploma mills with names that closely resemble those of legitimate institutions.

Source: Daniel Golden, "GAO Report Says Taxes Bought Bogus Degrees," Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2004.

For WSJ text (subscription required),,SB108422783044907387-search,00.html


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