Assisting Students in Obtaining Invalid High School Diplomas
Colleges commit admissions fraud by ignoring the lack of a GED or high school diploma or by helping students obtain invalid high school diplomas.
To qualify for financial aid under Title IV, students must show that they are qualified to enroll in a college or vocational program. One of the criteria requires students to show that they have obtained a high school diploma or GED.
However, some schools, in efforts to enroll as many students as possible regardless of their qualifications, have admitted students into their programs who have invalid high school diplomas or even no diploma or GED at all. These schools then unlawfully collect federal financial aid monies for students who lack the credentials necessary to be successful in a post-high school field of study.
School employees who know about such admissions fraud can file a lawsuit on behalf of the federal government under the False Claims Act. Such lawsuits help the government recover funds that are fraudulently obtained and to put an end to these illegal practices. Under the qui tam provisions of the Act, a whistleblower is entitled to recover a percentage of the government's recovery.
Examples of such unlawful practices include the following:
Enrolling students without high school diplomas.
A whistleblower lawsuit filed in Atlanta, Georgia, by four former employees alleges that for-profit American InterContinental University (AIU) enrolled students lacking high school diplomas. Some students were even unable to read.
The suit also alleges that the college fraudulently obtained its accreditation. Schools must be accredited by an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education in order for their students to qualify for federal aid. According to the allegations, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) placed AIU’s accreditation on probation in 2006, citing concerns that the school violated the federal ban on compensation incentives for recruiters and failed to require that students hold high school diplomas.
A week before the accreditation agency was scheduled to visit the campus, employees were instructed to hide relevant documents. After the school’s accreditation probation was lifted, the unlawful practices continued, with university officials instructing enrollment counselors that quantity of students, not quality, was the school’s goal.
Enrolling students with invalid or questionable diplomas.
A Keiser University campus in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, enrolled 74 students between 2009 and 2010 who held high school diplomas from an online Texas school called “questionable” by the U.S. Department of Education.
The Texas Attorney General subsequently declared the online school a “diploma mill,” and the school was temporarily shut down by a federal district court in El Paso.
Colleges have a financial incentive to ignore the Title IV requirements for federal financial aid.
Because federal financial aid is so important to the financial condition of for-profit colleges, they have a serious financial incentive to ignore the requirements for Title VI student financial aid—which include a GED or valid high school diploma. Whistleblowers have an important role to play in uncovering this fraud.