The Naval Criminal Investigation Service announced today the indictment of several Marines accused of bribing college officials for admission to some of the nation’s top online diploma mills.
"These bribes deprived veterans, other service members and average American dupes the chance to get ahead," NCIS Agent Tom Malloy told reporters. "They prevented the opportunity for hard working people to advance careers through an esteemed and rigorous education."
NCIS opened its investigation after a Camp Lejeune unit education officer dropped an envelope stuffed with one and five dollar bills and an application to Strayer University written in crayon. A civilian contractor turned the envelope over to NCIS, igniting a scandal that involved multiple Marine Corps bases, according to Malloy.
"In most instances, an education officer took half of the money and sent the rest to the university official," Malloy said.
The University of Phoenix, Capella University, and Grand Canyon University were also implicated in the scandal. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller expressed shock at the alleged scheme.
"Marines are taught to use black pens on official documents," Neller said. "Crayons are strictly for consumption."
NCIS agents believe junior enlisted Marines hatched the plan when looking to enroll in classes that coincided with field day formations. Education officers insisted the Marines would need extra help in enrolling in these for-profit colleges. The education officers earned between $5 and $6 per application for a total of over $500,000 in bribes, according to NCIS.
“I was a little confused when I was approached with a bribe for admission the first time," an admissions officer for Phoenix University said. “I mean, we’ll enroll anyone with a line of credit or access to tuition assistance money. I took the bribe of course. It only had a few dollars covered in grease and glitter that probably came from a local strip club.”
It is still unclear if the universities will expel the students involved. Most will remain enrolled until their payment checks clear.