‘Getting significantly worse’: California community colleges are losing millions to financial aid fraud

Cal Matters

Adam Echelman
April 1, 2024
California’s community colleges are reporting a rise in financial aid fraud. In January, suspected bots represented 1 in 4 college applicants. Schools have given away millions to these scams, and college officials say fraudsters are getting smarter with the help of AI.
They’re called “Pell runners” — after enrolling at a community college they apply for a federal Pell grant, collect as much as $7,400, then vanish.
Since fall 2021, California’s community colleges have given more than $5 million to Pell runners, according to monthly reports they sent to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. Colleges also report they’ve given nearly $1.5 million in state and local aid to these scammers.
The chancellor’s office began requiring the state’s 116 community colleges to submit these reports three years ago, after fraud cases surged.