November 5, 2021
At least six California community college districts suspect they have given out financial aid to fake students who have enrolled at their colleges this year.
At a minimum, the breaches represent a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars to scammers seeking financial aid from California’s community colleges. It’s possible that much more money was delivered to fake students, given that the system’s 115 traditional colleges, enrolling about 1.8 million students, are in the midst of distributing more than $1.6 billion in federal Covid relief aid.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General is currently investigating the scam in California and nationwide. A spokesperson for the office declined to comment about the status of the investigation.
The statewide chancellor’s office overseeing the colleges starting in September has also asked each college district to report each month the number of suspected and confirmed incidents of financial aid fraud. The system declined to release the data it has gathered from the districts.
“At this time we are not providing these records, as they relate to an ongoing investigation and the strengthening of our security systems,” Rafael Chávez, a spokesman for the chancellor’s office, wrote in an email.
EdSource surveyed districts across the state and, among those that responded or agreed to interviews, six of them acknowledged that scammers were successful or likely successful in getting financial aid.