The FBI busted another "diploma mill" late last week. These unaccredited internet entities concoct fancy names (often bastardized from real colleges, like phony Hamilton University based on fully-accredited and prestigious Hamilton College) and issue advanced degrees with little or no coursework for cold, hard cash. Former Senior Director of Homeland Security Laura Callahan was forced to resign in 2004 when it was revealed that her postgraduate degrees were from diploma mills. These degrees are endemic among civil servants at the state, local, and federal levels, where advanced degrees are necessary to move up the pay scale. The temptation to "name it and frame it" for a one-time payment of $1000-$5000 (which the state often reimburses!) is significant to a middling bureaucrat who has no particular interest in academic work but wants a raise.

Like all criminal enterprises, however, this scam has evolved to stay one step ahead of law enforcement. Phony, unaccredited colleges are now routinely getting accredited…from phony accreditation boards. Check-mate, Johnny Law!

It makes perfect sense. A school for people who want to buy a diploma just wants buy accreditation. Unfortunately the line between legitimate and illegitimate accreditation is much less clear than the line between schools.

Far-right "colleges" such as Patrick Henry College, a.k.a. Homeschooled U., and Bob Jones University are accredited, as their websites loudly proclaim (always the sign of a good school: "Welcome! We're accredited!") But it is worth noting that they are both accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), a body whose power to accredit is largely the product of political influence and lax law enforcement.

TRACS was granted that power in 1991, against the advice of the Department of Education advisory panel, by Bush appointee, Education Secretary, and backwoods retard Lamar Alexander. It proceeded to assuage fears about its standards by accrediting the Institue for Creation Research despite the fact that the chair of TRACS was the same person who founded the ICR. TRACS also introduced a new, cutting-edge approach to accreditation, separating itself from its peers by devising an innovative list of standards, including:

1. The unique divine inspiration of all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as originally given, so that they are infallible and uniquely authoritative and free from error of any sort, in all matters with which they deal, scientific and historical as well as moral and theological.

2. Special creation of the existing space-time universe and all its basic systems and kinds of organisms in the six literal days of the creation week.

3. The full historicity and perspicuity of the biblical record of primeval history, including the literal existence of Adam and Eve as the progenitors of all people, the literal fall and resultant divine curse of the creation, and worldwide cataclysmic deluge and the origin of nations and languages at the Tower of Babel.

Aside from Patrick Henry and BJU, the few schools able to meet these exacting standards include the Apex School of Theology, Beulah Heights University, Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College, and "Virginia University of Lynchburg", which is most decidedly not the University of Virginia.

The entire educational system suffers from this commercialized debasement of the value of postsecondary degrees. It is bad enough that civil servants and job hunters are loading their diplomas with "degrees" that required little beyond a valid credit card. Now the waters are being muddied further by Department of Education-sanctioned accreditation granted to schools obviously incompetent to offer anything beyond Christian-centric theology degrees.