The Office of Personnel Management’s Qualifications Standards Operating Manual establishes position qualification and education requirements. Under that manual, only degrees from an accredited college or university recognized by the Department of Education are acceptable to meet positive education requirements or to substitute for experience.
Information on qualifications standards is at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/classification-qualifications and information on accredited schools is at https://ope.ed.gov/dapip/#/home.
Note: Under Executive Order 13932 of 2020, job classification and qualification standards for competitive service positions may include minimum education requirements only when “legally required to perform the duties of the position.” If there is no legal requirement, education may be considered only if it “directly reflects the competencies necessary to satisfy that qualification and perform the duties of the position.” Agencies were directed to make any changes by the end of 2020 needed to conform to those principles in how they determine if a candidate meets qualifications and in how they assess candidates who do meet them. See an OPM memo to agencies of May 17, 2021 at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals.
Claiming a degree the individual knows to be bogus and attempting to obtain employment, promotion, training, special assignment, or other employment-related benefit can be deemed to be fraud. When the individual holds a security clearance, or a responsible position, such as a public trust position, where standards of trustworthiness and integrity are particularly high, agencies may consider whether that person should continue to hold a security clearance or remain in the position even when the bogus degree claimed was not material in the initial employment decision.
In addition, student loan repayments are only allowable for tuition paid to colleges or universities accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association recognized by the Department of Education. Also, federal agencies may not pay for degree training at diploma mill institutions under 5 CFR 410.
Note: 5 U.S.C. 4101 allows agencies to fund individual training courses for employees that are provided by private vendors, including non-accredited institutions. Approval of such training requires participation by supervisors and human resources personnel. The training must be clearly job related and the provider must actually deliver the quality and quantity of training purchased.