|Con artists, known as “Pell Runners,” are manipulating community college systems across the nation to obtain financial aid illegally.
The U.S. Department of Education is now making it a priority to put a stop to these scams, but many colleges have been dealing with this issue for years.
The Pell grant program, which gives students federal financial aid that does not have to be repaid, has had issues with scams since the program’s conception in 1972. Scam artists apply for Pell grants at community colleges, where tuition is low, and the Pell refund checks are typically higher.
“Any time you’ve got a large government program like this, you’re going to have people who try to exploit it and get money for nothing,” said Haley Chitty, a spokesman for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.
Scam artists posing as students apply for financial aid, typically at a low-cost college and receive a Pell refund check meant for personal expenses that can amount to a couple of thousand dollars, Chitty said.
The Pell Runner then fails out and transfers to a different college to repeat the process.