Editor in Chief
In 2012, the College of DuPage in Illinois uncovered a ring of 44 students with two leaders responsible for scamming the federal government by enrolling in online classes, receiving financial aid and keeping it for personal uses.
Las Positas College is no stranger to financial aid fraud. It’s happened in the past, and it’s happening now. A campus-wide email from Financial Aid Officer Andi Schreibman in late January notified the college of a potential financial aid fraud ring operating at LPC under the cover of online enrollment. While the issue is currently under investigation, it could potentially be devastating.
“Every faculty member has students who are doing poorly in their class, who show up infrequently, maybe don’t turn in stuff. Every semester, every class. But you don’t immediately think, ‘Hey, are you purposefully not turning in work because you’re planning on defrauding the federal government?’” said sociology professor Sarah Thompson.
The situation seems to be similar to what occurred at the College of DuPage. According to the email, a small number of faculty detected a pattern in their online courses, a pattern where students were enrolled for the class but didn’t seem to be logging in or participating with the work. Thompson, in fact, was one such faculty member who discovered this pattern in her online sociology class.
“I couldn’t believe the number. More than half,” she said. “I’ve never had this level of orchestrated mass enrollment. It was almost begging to be discovered. Eventually I would’ve noticed that half my class was not turning in assignments. It would’ve dawned on me.”
In fact, Thompson was forced to drop 23 students from her full class of 44. This number of students makes up the majority of the suspected ring, the email states. Many of these students were registered for classes last semester and performed poorly, but did manage to earn one “D” grade, making them eligible for financial aid in the spring.
“They’re taking advantage and basically robbing our government of money that other people could use for authentic means,” Thompson said.
Schreibman, as well as Vice President of Student Services Diana Rodriguez, declined to comment, as the investigation is ongoing. According to LPC President Barry Russell, there is no update on the investigation as of now. When this situation occurred several years ago, however, the fraud ring was investigated by the Office of Inspector General, and members were arrested and just recently prosecuted.
“They’re trying to come up with more and more ways to identify it online,” Russell said. “Some schools are now requiring there’s some sort of retina scanner, or some sort of device you can stick your finger into to get a fingerprint.”
Whether or not LPC decides to take these measures, these people are accused of robbing from the federal government, the school itself and students who might need the aid or even the spot in the online class. Schreibman and others are remaining vigilant in their pursuit of apprehending members of the ring.
“I think Andi should be a hero,” Thompson said. “Don’t be robbing the bank in her town.”