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Terrorism Fears and Diploma Mills

Degrees Easily Conferred to Terrorists

Fallout from 9/11 revealed that the terrorists all carried an array of counterfeit credentials. They had also managed to gain aviation experience with little or no resistance on anyone’s part. While fake college degrees were not a specified problem, the documentation in the wrong hands gives access to other important personal identification credentials. Along with fake degrees come college transcripts that may be used as important ID components when applying for such things as drivers’ licenses.

Pessimists predict that the growth in legitimate online education programs in the last decade is a fertile ground for degree mills. As strategies turn more sophisticated and the incentive to dupe employers in the name of promotions and raises, diploma mills will become more powerful. Already a subterranean fear exists that unethical and self-serving mills may sell bogus credentials to dangerous persons, including terrorists. How would a fake degree help a terrorist? “Some experts fear employees with counterfeit credentials could get security clearances.”1 Fake degrees can earn one jobs and entrance into educational institutions for which they might not otherwise qualify.

Real Terrorist Buys a Degree

In a televised report in late 2005, CNN reported on the ease by which journalists were able to secure degrees:

Which part of the whole process is scarier is up for debate: the fact that Rochville University is alive and well and dishing up degrees in dozens of majors to whomever hands over enough dollars to cover the cost, or the fact that RU advertises itself as an accredited university. Their accreditors, Board of Online Universities Accreditation and World Online Education Accreditation Commission, are not recognized in the U.S. This means “accreditation” as far as higher education goes, is meaningless. No quality or reputable education here. Furthermore, RU has eluded investigators and apparently occupies no physical location.

Quite possibly, the near 50 percent of the bogus degree business is direct from the Middle East. There is no evidence that any of the applicants are terrorists, but no one bothers to ask questions either.

Feds Unable to Police Their Own

Also alarming is the news of hundreds of bogus degrees conferred to federal employees. The Department of Homeland Security had one of its high-level CIOs exposed for her trio of degrees bought from Hamilton University (sounds like: accredited and well-respected Hamilton College). HU was an unaccredited, low-quality diploma mill now closed by the state of Wyoming.

What if high-level federal employees with fake credentials jeopardized national security? And what if a terrorist really jumped through all the loopholes in the fake degree industry? Right now diploma mills run with little resistance and it’s quite probable that a terrorist element somewhere has realized that diploma mill operations serve as the perfect black hole in national security.


  1. Stephanie Armour, “Diploma Mills Insert Degree of Fraud Into Job Market,” USA Today, September 2003, http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2003-09-28-fakedegrees_x.htm.

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