Financial aid scam rolls around California community colleges

The California Community College system is investigating an admissions and financial aid scam involving “bot” students enrolled in courses and fraudulent financial aid applications, the Los Angeles Times reported. The fraud makes it difficult for colleges to assess enrollment numbers in the fall after a year of decline during the pandemic.

Patrick Perry, director of policy, research and data at the California Student Aid Commission, told the Times he believes there could be more than 65,000 bogus requests for financial aid, although officials detected the problem early enough that the money was likely not distributed to the crooks.

He said he became suspicious several weeks ago when another 60,000 first-time California community college applicants of a certain age and income group applied for financial assistance for two-year programs compared to last year. All were aged 30 and over with an annual salary of less than $ 40,000.

Colleges also experienced irregular admission activity. The system discovered that 20% of recent traffic to its main online application portal was “malicious and bot-related,” according to a memo written by Valerie Lundy-Wagner, acting vice-chancellor of innovation and development. digital infrastructure. Faculty members also began to suspect that some of their students were in fact fake robot accounts.

“We were looking at financial aid and they were looking at enrollment applications,” Perry told the Times, referring to colleges. “And we finally put the two together. The two just got closer and at that point we were like, “Yeah, this is fraudulent. “

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