October 9, 2003
Honorable Susan M. Collins
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator Collins:
Thank you for your letter relating to the problems of diploma mills and the fraudulent credentials that they issue. I share your concern that these operations threaten to devalue the legitimate education credentials of millions of Americans.
While I appreciate the value that could be realized from the creation of a definitive list of diploma mills, developing such a list poses potential difficulties for the Department of Education. As you know, the Department of Education has no oversight or regulatory authority over institutions that do not participate in the programs included in the Higher Education Act. Thus, we have no independent authority or ability to determine if such a school is a diploma mill. That decision is best made by appropriate regulators in the State in which the school is located.
I, nevertheless, recognize that this problem is serious and requires careful consideration by the Department as to whether a federal response is appropriate. I understand that a number of states, including Oregon, North Dakota, Illinois, and New Jersey, have enacted laws that seek to restrict the operation of diploma mills and the use of fraudulent credentials. I have asked Assistant Secretary Sally L. Stroup, who heads the Office of Postsecondary Education, to convene a meeting of officials from these states, representatives of your office and of the Office of Personnel Management to discuss whether a federal response is appropriate and to help Federal personnel managers identify fraudulent educational credentials.
I appreciate your interest in this issue and pledge the full cooperation of the Department of Education in seeking a resolution.