The Fed is looking into Utah College, which received fake applications for admission and financial aid

The Salt Lake Community College says no money has been paid into the flagged accounts.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) On Tuesday, March 8, 2022, a gray sky appeared over the Salt Lake Community College campus.

The Salt Lake Community College is under federal investigation after receiving numerous fraudulent applications for admission and financial aid, including requests for students’ COVID-19 relief funds.

SLCC spokeswoman Peta Owens-Liston confirmed that the school had received fake applications by the end of January for the 2022 spring semester.

Admission staff reported to the U.S. Department of Justice, which is now examining the forged documents. School officials did not say how many fake applications were submitted. But they seem to have used the stolen information of real people to appear like real Utah students applying for college.

Owens-Liston said admissions staff were able to identify “some red flags” with false applications and no money was paid. As the investigation is ongoing, they declined to say what drew attention to the applications.

A spokesman for the Department of Justice declined to comment.

But Owens-Liston said the school has returned to previous applications since the fall to “make sure they’re not cheating and find none.”

At the Utah System of Higher Education meeting last week, SLCC President Denise Heftlin briefly addressed the issue of applications.

Last summer, she noted, the school removed a $ 40 fee for incoming students to submit their applications. This was to remove the barrier for those who could not afford the cost. But Haftelin said he believes that is what caused the problem.

“High school councilors liked it. They came out of the woodwork, ”she said. “But this has had some unintended consequences for us when it comes to fraudulent applications.”

The school later reinstated the $ 20 application fee, the president added, “as a barrier to boats applying for financial aid.”

SLCC has been struggling to recruit students and maintain enrollment since the beginning of Pandemic.

When COVID-19 hit and many people lost their jobs, the state saw a more affordable college as an easy way for some workers to return to school to learn a new business. It’s not over yet.

The school, which pays about $ 4,000 a year in tuition for in-state students, sees a steady increase in pre-virus enrollment. During the two years of Pandemic, it lost about 2,300 students.

It currently has about 27,000 employees.

Owens-Liston said the school’s spring enrollment numbers do not count fake applications. Students are also given an ID as a confirmation of financial assistance.

This is the second high-level investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into education in Utah last year. Federal investigators also reviewed the Davis School District, where they found widespread racism that was not addressed by teachers and administrators.

Prior to that, the DOJ found in 2020 that Utah State University had mishandled reports of sexual harassment – often “weakening extra students.”

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