According to the article, Michelle Owens—an ex-inmate from the South Carolina Correctional Institution—used her prison job in the educational office to gather other inmates’ personal information. She then used that information to apply to be a student at Webster University, where she was accepted under 23 different identities and applied for federal student aid. She received FAFSA approval for loans and $124,821 in federal taxpayer dollars, which—shockingly enough—she did not spend on an education for any of her identities! FAFSA needs to do a better job of verifying identities and checking eligibility.

These fraudulent accounts could easily have been detected by the fact that she was using addresses that she controlled and not actual past addresses of the inmates. How easy? Basic background should bring up residential history and the accounts should identify the individuals as incarcerated.

SAT QUESTION OF THE DAY: Why weren’t there controls on her access to the academic records for 23 people?

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