Million dollar financial aid scam hits Cerritos College


Cerritos College is the victim of a massive financial aid scam that affects most California Community Colleges. The school reported that approximately a million dollars were lost as a result on Sept. 22, 2021. Photo credit: Vincent Medina

Lily Marmolejo, News Editor

Cerritos Community College was amongst the string of California Community Colleges that fell victim to the federal financial aid scam made by fake students admissions. Cerritos College received about 9,000 applications that have given the admission offices reason to believe that they do not belong to the actual applicant.

The L.A. Times concluded that there were approximately 65,000 fraudulent applications sent to California Community Colleges. The applications gathered from Cerritos Community College do not correlate with the other community colleges.

“We are looking at a little over a million dollars at this point in time and we have not reimbursed all the financial aid refunds,” said Dean of Enrollment Services Yvette Tafoya. “students have been asked to verify their identity before they can enroll or receive financial aid.”

The financial aid grants fake applicants received were federal Pell grants, federal student loans and curb funding meant to help students during COVID.

Students must verify their identity. Students will receive a notice that they must respond to within five business days verifying their identification. There have only been about a dozen cases where a student was accidentally dropped from a course.

Professors began notifying faculty members when trends started to appear in June. Classes that were affected by the fraudulent student accounts were classes that required no English or math clearance, humanities and business classes.

“Those were severely impacted,” said Tafoya. “the fraudulent students were taking up seats in classes that could have taken seats from other students but the departments in reality started when they saw a class was full they started adding sections to offer more courses to the students.”

The amount of damage done due to the scam is unknown.

Classes were continuously being offered to supply the increased demand. No known student has come forward with a complaint.

Professors began notifying faculty members when trends started to appear in June.

Tafoya said hesitantly, “Since June we’ve dropped a little over 3700 students or withdrawn them from classes and each one was taking three to four classes.”

Common trends would vary weekly in applications but the most common ones were applicants with the same or similar outlook email, IP address, or missing phone number. Accounts also shared the same addresses.

Fraudulent student accounts used stolen identities from all over the country. There were no apparent trends in the identities that were stolen.

As cases continue to arise Tafoya stressed that detecting these fraudulent accounts is difficult and time-consuming. This is the first year anything of this nature has occurred at Cerritos College before.

Efforts to prevent this from reoccurring have been made, but detecting fraudulent accounts has been made a priority.