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News Release

Friday, May 07, 2004
Contact: Michael Orenstein
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Trains Several Hundred Federal Employees in One Week on Identifying Bogus College Degrees

OPM Director James says training will aid prevention against those who would “perpetrate fraud” against the American public and federal civil service

Washington, D.C. -- The U.S. Office of Personnel Management today hosted its second seminar of the week, bringing to 340 the number of federal hiring and program managers who have been trained over the past few days to identify bogus academic degrees presented by individuals to gain employment or promotion, and which have the potential to hinder public safety.

OPM Director Kay Coles James called this week's seminars "important meetings for frontline officials" whose decisions on personnel affect all Americans, as well as the legitimacy of the federal civil service. The first seminar was held on May 5 for more than 160 individuals. In all, 52 agencies sent employees to the two seminars.

Including seminars OPM held in August 2003, approximately 750 federal employees from more than 100 agencies have received training on identifying fraudulent academic credentials.

Prior to the May 5 seminar, James said: "Following today's seminar, human resource professionals and program managers will be better prepared to identify the misrepresentation of academic credentials, specifically the presentation of bogus degrees issued through diploma mills by those who, for self gain, would attempt to perpetrate a hoax or fraud upon the American public. Out of respect and admiration for our nation's honest and hard-working federal civil servants, the Bush Administration is committed to weeding-out those who would misrepresent themselves and their credentials in ways that put the nation's health and security in jeopardy."

James added: "OPM will continue to provide tools and guidance to agencies tackling this critical issue affecting the credibility of the civil service system."

Attendees' opinions of the seminars were positive, both for the information provided and further raising awareness of the issue.

"Until news of the past year, I was not keenly aware that the use of bogus degrees was a widespread problem," said Anthony Webber, a staffing and classification specialist with the Justice Department's Bureau of Prisons. "OPM is addressing the issue, and my awareness is obviously heightened."

An HR specialist at a cabinet-level agency said OPM's seminars "are of value" and re-enforce the idea that misrepresentations "need to be caught in the early stages" of the résumé review process.

OPM has announced that personnel and security clearance forms used by job applicants and current employees will be revised to make clear the differences between credentials received from accredited versus non-accredited schools. The new forms will provide space to list education received from both types of institutions.

OPM hosted similar seminars last August following disclosure of an official who had obtained a number of degrees from an established diploma mill. The seminars included presentations by a former FBI agent and a leading expert on diploma mills.

In a memorandum issued in July 2003, James reminded agency heads of the need to report to OPM all actions taken against employees who use bogus degrees to misrepresent their credentials. James also cited the Guidance for Agencies Concerning Bogus Degree Claims, an OPM manual, as a source of assistance. Since the mid 1980s, OPM has worked with federal agencies and the law enforcement community to identify businesses and individuals who knowingly misrepresent their academic programs or credentials.

The following is a list of federal agencies and departments represented at one or more of this week's seminars:

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Air Force
  • Department of Army
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Health and Human Services
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • Department of Interior
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of Navy
  • Department of State
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Treasury
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Agency for International Development
  • Architect of the Capitol
  • Armed Forces Retirement Home
  • Broadcasting Board of Governors
  • Central Intelligence Agency
  • Commodity Future Trading Commission
  • Consumer Product Safety Commission
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • Executive Office of the President
  • Export-Import Bank of the United States
  • Farm Credit Administration
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  • Federal Election Commission
  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Federal Housing Finance Board
  • Federal Reserve Board
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • General Services Administration
  • International Trade Commission
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • National Credit Union Administration
  • National Gallery of Art
  • National Labor Relations Board
  • National Science Foundation
  • National Security Agency
  • National Transportation Safety Board
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Office of Government Ethics
  • Office of Management and Budget
  • Office of Personnel Management
  • Office of Special Counsel
  • Peace Corps
  • Small Business Administration
  • Smithsonian Institution
  • United States Holocaust Museum
- end -

OPM leads and serves the Federal Government in enterprise human resources management by delivering policies and services to achieve a trusted, effective civilian workforce. By Empowering Excellence in Government through Great People, we provide leadership and support to U.S. agencies on issues including human resources policy and oversight, background investigations, federal employee benefits, retirement services, guidance on labor-management relations, and programs to improve workforce performance. For more information, visit or follow OPM on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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