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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Crackdown on 460,000 ghost students: California community colleges battle fraudulent enrollment and aid scams

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Authorities have initiated a significant crackdown on the occurrence of tens of thousands of cases each year involving ghost students enrolling in California community colleges, fraudulently obtaining federal and state aid, and subsequently disappearing.

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) reports that numerous ghost students vanish every semester after receiving federal and state grants. These individuals create fictitious student accounts, enroll in classes at multiple colleges, and then drop out once they have exploited their CalGrants and Pell Grants, which are meant to benefit low-income students.

One notable example is City College of San Francisco, where over $30,000 in federal grants were awarded to 29 ghost student accounts in the spring semester alone. Additionally, 505 fake applications were detected for the summer semester. At Pierce College, more than 7,600 individuals enrolled in eight-week classes and received grants, but only 4,900 of them were identified as legitimate students by authorities.

Consequently, the community college system’s 116 campuses now provide regular reports differentiating between students who genuinely attend classes and those who apply for financial aid. This reporting has been in place since the spring semester, following directives from the federal Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The CCCCO estimates that 460,000 students, comprising 20 percent of the total enrollment of 2.3 million, are ghost students. However, due to limited information on these individuals, it is impossible to determine the exact amount of money they have illicitly obtained, although it is estimated to be in the millions of dollars. The CCCCO has implemented specialized software on its online enrollment platform to identify ghost students, but it still believes that around 200,000 fraudulent applications have not been filtered out.

Community colleges do not require a Social Security number or other identification and are open to individuals with a high school diploma, making it relatively easy for anyone to enroll as a fake student.

Meanwhile, the increasing number of ghost students adversely affects genuine students attending community colleges. Real students may struggle to register for classes in a timely manner, jeopardizing their ability to graduate or transfer on schedule.

The Community College Chancellor’s Office acknowledges the challenges in tracking down ghost students due to limited student information and is proposing the implementation of additional software programs to combat this issue during the student registration process.

BY NICOLE CHANG   [support@koreadaily.com]