Several current students who are enrolled or trying to enroll in online and in-person classes have not been able to do so due to fraudulent enrollments, the Academic Senate found during a report on Sept. 30.
“For me, the most frustrating part – as I’m sure it would have been for most of you if you had this experience – I had additional students who wanted in. My class was full,” Academic Senate Co-Vice President Kelly Rivera said. “They weren’t able to register for it, and then it turned out that 40% of those students were fraudulently enrolled. That is not great because that’s preventing real students from access to classes that they should have had.”
While Mt. SAC Information Technology staff is currently in charge of checking the legitimacy of currently enrolled students, staff has been advised to drop any student who does not participate remotely in online classes as a mitigation measure.
This comes at a time where students and staff are required to test weekly or show proof of vaccination. Any student who does not comply with the school’s vaccination or testing requirements will be dropped from their in-person classes beginning Oct. 8 and their financial aid may be impacted or in some cases students may lose their Financial Aid. The Financial Aid office will also provide more information to noncompliant students through their school email. Students can contact the Financial Aid office in Building 9B located on the 2nd floor or by calling (909) 274-4450.
The college has identified three different types of fraud: admission application fraud which occurs with the creation of a California Community College account, enrollment fraud which occurs after the acceptance of a student and financial aid fraud which occurs after college admission. Out of the three types of fraud the college has identified enrollment and financial aid fraud.
According to Financial Aid Director Emmanuel Serta, students enter verification once they submit their application.
“For about 30% of students, there’s a process called verification. They’re not selected by us, [they’re selected] by the Department of Education saying your application has been selected for verification,” Serta said. “So at that point around March, we email students to let them know that they have to turn in documents.”
While there are currently no known fraudulent enrollments this semester, the financial aid office discovered 39 fraudulent applicants in their 8 week courses for Spring 2021. While the financial aid has mechanisms to prevent fraudulent applicants, students who fraudulently submit an application will have their accounts placed on hold and receive no aid money.
The college has also listed that faculty are responsible for verifying a student’s enrollment through class participation, attendance, completed assignments, among other various factors. Online courses require effective contact between professors, students and their classmates.
While the college has made it clear that current students are not committing fraud, Mt. SAC is not the only college facing financial aid fraud.
Earlier last month, US educational federal officials warned college campuses to be on high alert after authorities discovered a massive scam involving at least 65,000 fake college students applying for financial aid.
Colleges are urged to keep an eye out for the use of the same phone number or address, first-time college applicants to a community college who are older than 30, are earning less than $40,000 annually and are seeking a two year degree rather than a vocational certificate.