By Professor Doom
While both universities and community colleges practice many of the same frauds, one fraud in particular is most common by far at the community college: Pell Grant fraud.
A Pell Grant is basically free money, close to $6,000, available for a student to take college courses. Of course, “college course” is defined by admin, and our campuses are loaded down with fake courses that aren’t remotely college level.
She pulled his student-aid record and discovered that he had received aid from seven other colleges. When she requested transcripts, he vanished.
This fraud is particularly bad at community colleges because they keep tuition low, and any “surplus” money from the Pell Grant is “returned” to the student. Thus, a community college that charges $2,000 tuition for a semester, after two semesters, will “refund” (I quote these words, because these are the words community colleges use to describe what they do) the remaining money to the student.
I used to teach at a fake community college; I taught a math course little different than the 3rd grade math course taught in the primary school down the road. I’d have 30 students show up the first day out of 40 on the roster. A month or so later, and it would be “check day,” the day when the community college would “refund” the Pell Grant money to the students.
The students would line up, get their checks, go home…and I’d have 5 students show up in class for the rest of the semester. The 10 that never showed up even once would nevertheless get checks mailed to their homes; the main reason these kids never showed up is because they lived in a different state, hundreds of miles away. I could report them for fraud and have them dropped from the course, but then I’d have “low retention” and risk being fired for being a “bad teacher.”
The amount of fraud involved with Pell Grant is jaw dropping; we have tribes of nomadic students wandering from campus to campus, signing up for bogus courses, getting their Pell Grant money, and then moving on to another campus. Estimates on the level of fraud are extremely low compared to what I’ve seen with my own eyes:
One expert, Mark Kantrowitz of FinAid.org, believes that Pell grant fraud still runs at about 3.6 percent or more than $1 billion a year.
Wow, if it was only a billion a year fraud, that would be tiny. But, I know full well faculty are discouraged from reporting the fraud, and administrators get pay raises provided they don’t see the fraud (more accurately, they get pay raises for “growing” the institution). I’d say 25%, bare minimum, of the student base at a typical cheap community college is Pell Grant fraud related…there’s really no way to know since the whole system is set up to not see the fraud no matter how obvious.
Louisiana’s technical colleges, which focus on job training, until recently charged less than $1,000 per year to attend. But they found a couple years ago that as much as 12 percent of grant money went to Pell runners.
It’s the low tuition that really ramps up the fraud at the community (or technical) colleges. “Free money for signing up” is one *heck* of a great business plan. Administrators get huge bonuses for finding people who want free money…yeah, it’s a tough job.
Not long ago at a North Carolina community college, there always seemed to be fewer cars in the parking lot the week after Pell grant checks were sent out.
--The phenomenon observed above is everywhere. At my own fake school (not in NC), the rosters would say we had a 1,000 students enrolled in classes…but there’d only be a dozen cars in the parking lot at best, easily counted with my own eyeballs. Pell Grant fraud is NOT 3.6%, I promise you. Who would notice a 3.6% drop in cars at a parking lot?
In 2012, Obama did something decent: he shut down the Pell Grant fraud, at least for Summer classes. Naturally, community college attendance over the summer dropped 30% or more (seriously, 3.6% is a ridiculously low estimate of the fraud…). And, naturally, the Poo Bahs complained that they really needed to be able to keep passing out free checks to meet their growth goals.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I actually believe students should be allowed/encouraged to educate themselves over the summer, and, especially for job training programs, there’s no rational reason to not take summer classes. Unfortunately, the massive, massive fraud of the Pell Grant scheme makes it tough for me to advocate for it.
It looks like summer Pell Fraud will make a comeback:
Thanks to overall falling enrollments (because people are figuring out college, especially community college, is so often a ripoff now), there’s an actual surplus in Pell Grant money. Imagine this: our Poo Bahs running higher education have done such a terrible, horrible, job of it that not only can they not give away education, they’re now having trouble even getting people to get an education along with a free check! And despite this clear evidence of their failure, they still score 6 or 7 figure a year jobs…
Anyway, with the surplus, there’s now more money for summer Pell Fraud. The higher ed world is a’buzzing with the discussion of all the new loot that will be flowing, mostly, into administrative pockets. I’ve found several articles on it, but, as always, it’s the dog not barking that gets my attention.
None of the discussions on year round Pell discuss the freakin’ fraud. I know, for the Federal government, it means nothing to throw away a billion a year (their numbers, multiply by at least 8 to get a realistic lowball estimate)…but shouldn’t we at least consider maybe making it just a little bit harder for fake students to rake in the free money by going to fake schools?
It’s funny, major “mainstream” news sites don’t allow comments on their articles…I distrust everything I read there because if they’re printing lies, there’s no way someone can make a correction in the comments section. Insider Higher Ed is legitimate, and thus allows comments. I’m pleased to see I’m not the only one noticing a lack of consideration for obvious issues in the “free checks for signing up” business model of community college:
This seems like a scheme designed to funnel money to non-profits. Note the lack of interest in effectiveness.
Indeed, nobody seems to care about the effectiveness of community colleges. 90% of community college coursework is high school level or lower, much lower, and 90% of the students taking such classes eventually leave campus with nothing at all to show for their years of “education.” The immense failure rate is one of many black secrets of higher education.
Why would there be any interest in effectiveness? Ask any Poo Bah, and, if he were honest, he’ll happily tell how the summer Pell Scam will be effective in getting him a 7 figure bonus for growing summer enrollment…
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