Students possibly enrolling to get aid

Mark Rivera

Nearly $6,000 is available to low income students through financial aid Pell Grants. With this much money available to students enrolled in at least 12 units each semester, there is a concern that some students may enroll in classes only to receive the financial aid award.

“It’s a concern of (the financial aid department),” City College Financial Aid Director Greg Sanchez said. “But we have such a large population of students that need the financial aid, and want to learn (and) receive their education; that we can’t do things to hinder the mass group trying to catch the few that are trying to scam the system.”

Student Zeki Younis is definitely worried that some students may be enrolled in classes simply to get some free cash.

“You know it’s so hard to get into classes that you need because there are so many students just trying to enroll in any classes available,” Younis said. “And I’ve personally been in classes and have known students that are enrolled just to get financial aid and don’t even take the class seriously.”

According to the San Diego City College website, students receive their first payment for financial aid a month after classes begin. If a student drops their classes after they receive the payment they are only required to pay a portion of the grant back. A student who stays enrolled in the classes but receives a failing grade in those classes gets to keep the entire sum.

To some, this may be an incentive to enroll in classes in order to receive the financial aid rewards. However, Chicano studies Professor Justin Akers, says he feels that most students enrolled in classes are just trying to get an education and get ahead.

“I don’t think there is a growing concern (for financial aid fraud),” Akers said in an e-mail interview. “(Teachers) are more concerned with meeting our students’ needs, rather than profiling them, questioning their intentions for being in the classroom, or making it harder to get support. If there is a genuine concern about swindlers defrauding the state on a large scale, I suggest the investigators set their sites on Wall Street, not 1313 Park Blvd.”

According to Sanchez, there are systems in place to prevent fraud from occurring at City College. The financial aid department receives regular reports on financial aid recipients that drop, how much they receive, and how much they would owe.

“Students who are enrolling and dropping (constantly) are not going to be eligible for financial aid in the future,” Sanchez said.

The financial aid department also divides up the financial aid award disbursements on two different dates. One is about a month into the semester and the last is about a month before the semester ends, according to Sanchez, making sure that students do stay and attend classes.

With these systems in place it would be difficult, but not impossible to take advantage of the system. However, according to Akers, faculty and administrators don’t spend a lot of their time worrying about those few who do want to cheat the system.

“For most students, attending college itself is a challenge due to increasing costs, budget cuts, and the overall hardship created by the ‘Great Recession.'” Akers said. “The last thing we should be doing is making their lives more complicated or making them feel guilty about having financial needs and asking for help.”