Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sam Brownback hires IT chief with diploma-mill degree

Posted By on Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 9:51 AM

Jim Manns college mentor.
  • Jim Mann's college mentor.

Update: A day after accepting the job as Kansas chief information technology officer, Jim Mann resigned from the $150,000-per-year job yesterday after it was revealed that he had a degree from an online diploma mill, the Topeka Capital-Journal, reports. The paper, which broke the story, reports that Mann's resignation letter read, "The questions surrounding my qualifications to perform and deliver in this position have compromised confidence in me and in my integrity. As such, I am no longer an asset to your team and your IT mission."

Original Story:
As the recession drags on, pundits and studies are split over whether a college degree is more valuable or becoming completely meaningless. But there's no denying that, even if it doesn't hold the same benefits it once did, a college degree is a nice résumé booster. The only consensus that experts seem to agree on is that a college degree is expensive but should lead to greater earning potential. New Kansas chief information technology officer Jim Mann knows this. Gov. Sam Brownback appointed Mann to his new $150,000-a-year gig on Monday, and the Topeka Capital-Journal reports, Mann's supposed degree from the University of Devonshire is little more than a fancy piece of paper bought off the Internet.

The C-J's Tim Carpenter took to Google to dig up more information about this British-sounding institution and found a 2002 Wired article explaining that the University of Devonshire is one of many online diploma factories with legit-seeming names that charge a few grand for a degree with "no tests or coursework required."

Wired referred to the phony university this way: "The 'university,' owned by an American resident in Romania, uses mail-drop addresses in the United Kingdom, printing services in Jerusalem and banking options in Cyprus. The operation has sold 70,000 diplomas in the United States alone, raking in over $100 million, according to diploma mill expert John Bear."

The Chronicle of Higher Education, in a 2004 piece, described the scheme as the "granddaddy" of diploma printers.

The governor is apparently unconcerned about how Mann's hiring looks. A Brownback spokeswoman told the Cap Journal that the governor didn't hire Mann for his educational pedigree. Instead, the Florida-based IT guy was brought to Kansas for his experience. The paper quoted spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag as saying: "Jim Mann was hired based on his more than 20 years of top-flight, private-sector experience. Information technology is a constantly changing field where the best preparation is private-sector experience."

You can read the governor's hiring announcement here. It reads in part, "Mann earned his Bachelor in Business Administration from the University of Devonshire." Since the administration is apparently aware that the school is a fraud, "earned" seems like a bad choice of words.

Another problem with Mann's credentials is that several media outlets are reporting Mann's résumé says he earned the Devonshire degree studying 1993-1995, which, of course, can't be true because it's a degree that requires zero work. Does that qualify as lying on a job application?


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