As Online Courses Grow, So Does Financial Aid Fraud

I know so many young people that did not qualify for financial aid and these people are locked up and getting thousands and thousands of dollars. They should be forced to pay back all of the money. There are so many crooked people in the world and this is so sad.

While serving nine months in a South Carolina prison on forgery charges, Michelle N. Owens capitalized on the explosion in online higher education to tap into a new — and highly lucrative — way to profit from fake documents.

Using information she gathered as she handled paperwork in the prison’s education department, Ms. Owens filed applications for admission and financial aid to Webster University’s distance-learning programs on behalf of 23 unknowing inmates. The applicants were admitted and granted the $467,500 in requested aid, including $124,821 for books, transportation and living expenses — though of course their room and board was already provided by the state. The aid was sent in the form of debit cards to the residential South Carolina address Ms. Owens supplied.

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