Jefferson City -- The Senate Education Committee heard testimony today about a bill introduced by Sen. Matt Bartle. Bartle's bill would prohibit the use of false or misleading documents to obtain employment or college admission in Missouri.

Bartle, a Republican from Jackson County, says the measure makes Missourians more secure by barring unqualified individuals from entering professions and institutions under false pretenses.

"How would you like to learn that your kid's teacher didn't graduate from college? Or that your doctor has a bogus medical degree?" Bartle asked. "The easy availability of phony documentation over the internet makes these very real dangers. This bill makes it a crime to apply for jobs or college admission with false documentation."

The Missouri Department of Higher Education has received reports of individuals using phony diplomas, transcripts and other documents from Missouri institutions to obtain employment in education and other professional fields. Some estimates say the sale of fake degrees exceeded $200 million in 2001 and now could be a billion dollar industry with as many as a million customers.

Commissioner for Higher Education Robert B. Stein says most people work hard to obtain degrees. "The use of these fabricated documents hurts everyone, but especially those who took the time and effort to qualify for a legitimate degree," Stein says. "This legislation is the first step toward ensuring the security of our citizens and the integrity of higher education."