Glendale Continues to Fight Financial Aid Fraud

Taline Markarian and Kelsey Anderson, Staff Writers

Several community colleges suffer from major financial aid fraud, but according to Patricia Hurley, associate dean of financial aid, GCC isn’t one of them.

“We don’t have any major fraud rings which some schools are experiencing,” Hurley said. “But those are mostly schools that have much larger online education programs because that makes it easier for people to pretend like they’re students when they aren’t.” A fraud ring is a organized group of people who intend to defraud schools by creating false identities.

Although Hurley says that GCC isn’t as affected by fraud, it doesn’t mean that GCC has a clean bill of health. There is still financial aid fraud being committed on campus.

“Sometimes somebody will call our office with a complaint,” Hurley. said. “Sometimes with inconsistencies with information and documents that students turn in.”

Students committing fraud register under five or six different names and social security numbers. There are people who get away with fraud by simply avoiding getting caught, but that’s not the case for every student.

The U.S. Department of Education has started a new process in which a notation is put on students’ record after they file their financial aid application.

The notation implies that the student has gone to a number of different schools and the enrollment history seems suspicious. The USDE will then verify if the student is at the school and if they are legitimately enrolled.

Teachers play the biggest role in preventing financial aid fraud. Hurley said she has met with some of the faculty to make sure they understand the importance of dropping students that aren’t attending class.

“It becomes an institution liability,” Hurley said. “It’s really important when students never enroll or are no longer enrolling, that the faculty reports that to the admissions office so we can track it in our records.”

When teachers don’t drop students, as far as the financial aid office knows, the student is still enrolled. This means that the student will still receive financial aid money.

If GCC finds out the student has not enrolled and has taken the money, then he or she becomes liable for reimbursing the college the full amount of the classes.

Presuming the student qualifies based on the information that’s provided, he or she will receive the first half of his or her grant money the first week of school. The second half will arrive a month after classes.

Whenever a student qualifies for the Pell Grant, he or she will receive half the money a week before school to purchase books. The rest of the aid is delayed until the second dispersant, which normally is a week or two after classes have started. the college gives almost $25 million in Pell Grant money to students every year.

If a student drops before the first dispersant, then the student immediately owes what aid was given. Also, a student who repeatedly drops classes each semester becomes ineligible for financial aid.

“There are some federal rules in place,” Hurley said. “If they totally drop out of school, then there is a calculation we go through to determine how much the student would have to repay. If they drop a few classes, then generally that wouldn’t affect them except students must maintain a 2.0 or higher GPA and have to successfully complete 2/3 of all the classes that they enroll in.”

If the education department comes to audit GCC and sees the systems were to blame for students committing fraud, then the university has to refund the money. If a student was committing fraud, then the student must repay all the money and could be subject to criminal penalties.

GCC pays about $35 million a year in financial aid to 13,000 students in need of financial assistance. When that’s taken advantage of, the school would be responsible. According to Edward Karpp, who works in research, planning and grants, even with a sturdy system, things go wrong and people get away with fraud, but anything that slips through is taken care of.

“We’re changing some policies so that we’re not in the position that we have to pay anything back,” Karpp said.

Students falsify their FAFSA by denying they’ve earned a bachelor’s degree from another university. Earning a bachelor’s degree makes returning students ineligible for federal grants. When done purposefully, GCC students are sent to the U.S. Inspector General’s Office for further investigation.

“It’s a felony and people have been prosecuted,” Hurley said.

Students continue to take advantage of GCC’s financial aid benefits and it effects others from receiving the funding they need.

The BOG waiver helps more than 12,500 students at GCC and gives away more than $5 million a year, but even though some students believe they’re not receiving enough financial aid, other students are happy with the support GCC provides.

“I get the full amount possible for community college and I’m obviously satisfied,” Bellen Avelar, a Spanish major at GCC said.