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Guaranteed Acceptance, Guaranteed Fraud

Guaranteed Acceptance, Guaranteed Fraud

Senior Director of Strategic Alliances
LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

If we didn’t think the college application and student loan processes were already broken, California could show how bad they are. According to the state Chancellor’s Office, which oversees the 116 campuses, about 20% of California’s community college applications are scams: more than 460,000 of the 2.3 million requests to the state’s online application system since July. What can you expect when community colleges are required to accept any student in the state with a high school diploma, and a Social Security number is not required to apply. Fraudsters love that.

Enrollment fraud surged during the COVID-19 crisis, alongside new opportunities for anyone in possession of a stolen identity and a criminal mind. Students no longer had to show up in person, and often still don’t. All the easier to file for fraudulent student loans. The state’s software has caught more than half of the fraudulent admissions applications since July, 2022. That still left about 200,000 sham applications able to enroll in online classes, then use their bogus student status to seek financial aid.  Pell grants, the federal college subsidies for needy students, have long tempted fraudsters. But the money became easier to steal when the U.S. Department of Education stopped verifying family income during the pandemic. A waiver expected to remain in place until the next award cycle. It’s hard to believe only 20% of the applications are fraudulent.

Fake enrollments also crowd out legitimate students and create hours of work for colleges trying to eliminate “ghost students.” One department eliminated 80 ghost students, only to have 80 more show up within an hour.  Colleges that disburse grants to fraudsters are on the hook to repay the feds.

Kudos to the community colleges employees who are working hard to make sure appplications are real.

Today’s Fraud Of The Day is based on article “Thousands of ‘ghost students’ are applying to California colleges to steal financial aid. Here’s how” published by The San Francisco Chronicle on June 4, 2023

Months after a mysterious check for $1,400 landed in Richard Valicenti’s mailbox last summer, the U.S. Department of Education notified him that the money was a mistake — an overpayment of the $3,000 Pell grant he had used to attend Saddleback College in Orange County.

“I told them I never applied for a Pell,” said Valicenti, a 64-year-old radiation oncologist at UC Davis who had never even heard of Saddleback. Valicenti’s name is among the stolen identities used in thousands of fraudulent attempts to enroll in community colleges in California and across the country since classes shifted online during the pandemic.

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