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A disturbing number of federal employees did not earn their degrees

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A disturbing number of federal employees did not earn their degrees

American taxpayers -- who picked up the tab -- should be outraged


Friday, May 14, 2004

Want to know where hundreds of thousands -- perhaps a whole lot more -- of your taxpayer dollars are going?

Diploma mills.

Want to know who is fleecing you?

Members of the Bush administration, the Pentagon and Defense Departments, Homeland Defense and a score of other federal agencies.

Lost in the ugliness of the rising American death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib -- 60 to 90 percent of them had not done a darn thing by the way, information the American public would not have known if not for the International Red Cross -- are the congressional hearings into the diploma mill scandal.

And before you claim that this is a non-issue, or for anyone who thinks this is a case of small potatoes, or in the parlance of the White House "only a few bad apples," here are the facts uncovered so far by CBS News:

The Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Abell has a master's degree from Columbus University, a diploma mill the state of Louisiana shut down. Deputy Assistant Secretary Patricia Walker, whose responsibilities include managing the National Guard and Reserve equipment and military construction requirements, lists among her degrees a bachelors of science from Pacific Western, a diploma mill banned in Oregon and under investigation in Hawaii. Ms. Walker's resume lists at least two graduate school degrees. (Legitimate graduate schools require a real undergraduate degree for admission, folks.)

If none of this raises the hairs on the back of your neck, maybe this will. The CBS News' in-depth, two-part investigation into all of this revealed that there are biological weapons experts with phony degrees working for Homeland Security and at the Pentagon.

Florida State Rep. Jennifer Carroll has left Bush's much-touted National Commission on Presidential Scholars. Why?

Because she holds a degree from Kensington University, which was forced out of business by officials in California and Hawaii. Her fellow commission member, Rene Drouin, has two degrees from Kensington.

Don't believe the so-called liberal media?

How about the General Accounting Office and congressional investigators, who, at last count, had found at least 28 senior-level federal employees in eight agencies who purchased their college degrees, including three managers at the office that oversees nuclear weapons safety.

Among those with bogus degrees in the GAO review were three employees holding emergency operations roles and security clearances at the National Nuclear Security Administration, part of the Department of Energy. According to the GAO, the mills use names similar to accredited colleges and universities as one means to dupe potential students, and those deliberately looking for an academic shortcut. Degrees are not based on real academic work, but on so-called "life experience." Others don't even attempt pretense, anyone can just flat out buy a degree for a set price.

For instance, one of the employees questioned by the GAO admitted to paying $5,000 for a master's degree from LaSalle University, an unaccredited school. He also admitted to attending no classes, taking no tests and told the GAO his degree was "a joke."

An earlier GAO report revealed high-level federal workers earning such degrees at taxpayer expense. The taxpayer tab: $169,471 at just two of these diploma mills.

Three unaccredited schools -- Pacific Western University, California Coast University and Kennedy-Western University -- provided the GAO and congressional investigators with data showing that 463 of their students were federal employees. Most of them employed in the Department of Defense.

Under law, the federal government may only pay tuition for academic degree training at schools sanctioned by a recognized accrediting body.

In contacting representatives of three diploma mills, an undercover GAO investigator stated in his report that the phony schools would not permit enrolling in individual courses. Yet were willing to change billing practices in order to tap into federal money, dividing the flat fee they charged by the number of courses a student needed to appear as if a per-course fee was charged.

The findings by the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, were presented to a Senate committee Tuesday. The GAO warned lawmakers that this scandal is far larger and more costly to taxpayers because of incomplete records and verifications. The government has no uniform way to check whether employees' alma maters are "diploma mills," stated GAO.

That is unbelievable, since non-government employers routinely check and verify the educational backgrounds of potential employees. Taxpayers are to believe that in this day and age of the Patriots Act, under which every aspect of any American citizen's life can be examined without court order, and with Homeland Security rules allowing the arrest and indefinite detention of anyone, that the educational backgrounds of federal employees cannot be verified?

Want to know what the Pentagon -- Donald Rumsfeld's baby -- had to say about Abell, Walker, and the other employees?

"We don't consider it an issue," was the response to CBS News.

Perhaps no one should be surprised, saddened yes, surprised, no.

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