Financial Aid Fraud

Updated: October 2019

Every year the Department of Education makes billions of dollars of Title IV Funds and Loans available to students to help them pay for higher education. However, in order to qualify for these funds both students and colleges must satisfy certain eligibility requirements. Cases of student aid fraud often involve students making false statements on the FAFSA to the Department of Education and to colleges on legal verification documents.

Conflicting Information
Maine Media College Financial Aid Office has the right to verify questionable data or conflicting information that applicant’s may have submitted inaccurately on their FAFSA. Conflicting information must be resolved before or after Title IV funds or loans have been disbursed. Failure to submit accurate and legitimate verification documentation will jeopardize aid eligibility and could result in a fine and imprisonment.

Reporting Potential Fraud/Identity Theft
Federal Regulations require that a school must refer to the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) for credible information indicating that an applicant for Federal Student Aid may be engaging in fraudulent or other criminal misconduct in connection with his or her application.

Common areas of misconduct include:

  • False claims of independent student status
  • False claims of citizenship
  • Stolen Identities
  • False claims of high school completion
  • Forgery of signature on certifications
  • Unresolved conflicting information
  • False statements of income
  • The intent to deceive in order to receive Title IV aid

Where should you report fraud?
Contact the OIG Special Agent in charge in your geographic area as shown here.
You also can report fraud to the OIG Hotline:

  • Email: [email protected]
  • Call: 1.800.MISUSED
  • Fax: 202.245.7047
  • Write: Inspector General Hotline, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20202-1500

What are Diploma Mills?
A “diploma mill” is a company that offers “degrees” for a flat fee in a short amount of time with little or no course work. Degrees awarded through diploma mills are not legitimate.
Diploma mill definition – An entity that:

  1. Charges someone a fee and requires him to complete little or no education or coursework to obtain a degree, diploma, or certificate that may be used to represent to the general public that he has completed a program of secondary or postsecondary education or training; and
  2. Lacks accreditation by an agency or association that is recognized as an accrediting body for institutions of higher education by the Secretary (pursuant to Part H, Subpart 2 of Title IV) or a federal agency, state government, or other organization that recognizes accrediting agencies or associations.

For more information about diploma mills visit the U.S. Department of Education site here.