April 24, 2008
New Law Protects Virginia from Diploma Mills
RICHMOND — “Virginia’s system of higher education is one of the most highly regarded in the country, and this bill is an important part of maintaining that integrity.” That was Governor Tim Kaine’s response to the passage of House Bill 766 during the reconvene session yesterday at the General Assembly.
As of July 1 when the law takes effect, anyone who issues, manufactures, or knowingly uses fraudulent academic credentials can be found guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by a sentence of up to 12 months in jail and fines of up to $2,500. Violations of the law should be reported to the Commonwealth’s Attorney offices in the location where they occur.
The legislation was drafted after months of hard work by a consortium of stakeholders, including The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the Virginia Career College Association (VCCA), Longwood University, the Virginia Community College System, and Virginia Commonwealth University.
The bill was sponsored by Delegate Robert Tata, chairman of the House Education Committee and long-time advocate for higher education in Virginia. “When fraudulent credentials go unchecked, it diminishes the credentials offered by legitimate institutions,” said Delegate Tata.
The State Council reports that diploma mills have not yet become a problem in Virginia. However, the potential for serious harm should diploma mills begin to operate in the Commonwealth prompted this proactive legislation.
As more states pass legislation prohibiting diploma mills, Virginia becomes more vulnerable,” said Daniel J. LaVista, SCHEV’s Executive Director. “That is why it was important to act quickly. I applaud Delegate Tata and the General Assembly for taking this important step to protect higher education in Virginia.
The manufacture and use of fraudulent credentials are cause for concern in a number of areas. First, there are the individuals who knowingly use fraudulent credentials to get jobs. In the case of health professions this practice can be dangerous, even life-threatening. Secondly, there are those who spend hard-earned money in good faith for credentials that turn out to be worthless. Third, employers are victimized when they spend money for what they think is legitimate training and get no value added to their workplace.
Virginia joins the following states in passing legislation against diploma mills: Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.
SCHEV is the Commonwealth’s coordinating body for Virginia’s system of higher education. The agency provides policy guidance and budget recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly, and is a resource for information on Virginia colleges and universities on higher education issues. For more information about the agency or higher education issues in Virginia, visit www.schev.edu.
For more information, contact Kirsten Nelson, Director of Government Relations and Communications, at KirstenNelson@schev.edu or (804)225-2627.