This is something I thought today during a meeting...
I recently learned we have had several students not report *all* institutions they've attended before. (Ex: One student "forgot" to mention they had taken courses with Univ of Phoenix for ~70hrs and stopped attending. Univ of Phoenix is holding that student's transcript until they settle up on their bill. [Transcripts are the one thing a school can hold over a student for failure to pay.] It came to light when the student's Financial Aid was processing...)
School's usually require this because prior scholastic work is taken into consideration when placing the student in courses, academic standing, etc. and ensures a students will make good on their financial obligations - like a gentlemen's agreement among institutions. I asked in our Registrar's office what happens if a student doesn't divulge all schools they've attended, "What's the worst that could happen to them?" "It could get them suspended from our school." In the grand scheme of things, so what? They could move down the road to another school and take classes there.
It would be a huge headache for the student, but a driven and motivated student could navigate the system and get their degree one way or another from some institution. (especially from certain schools that are willing to do anything to get money and could care less about the other schools down the road...)
So. What's the big deal? The trouble is Financial Aid fraud.
Unscrupulous individuals will solicit the school for financial aid, scholarships, grants, etc. in hopes the grants and loan money comes to them directly and/or any overage in scholarship/grant money gets sent to them directly, all the while never intending to *actually* take classes. Before any financial aid is disbursed, the student will usually sign a short-term loan with the school to cover the courses in the meantime. Once they're counted "present" in class, the Financial Aid will pay out, the short term loan is dissolved and federally backed funds cover the expenses. If those funds get intercepted by the student somehow, (I'm no expert on FA fraud.) the school has loaned out money for books, living expenses, etc, expecting to get the federal money. However, that money never materializes and the school is left holding the bag.
The fraudulent student will repeat this process at one school after another for quite sometime, never reporting their prior enrollments for obvious reasons.
If there was a way to report a student's enrollment, I believe part of this fraud and waste in the Financial Aid system could be cut.
It seems to be that there should exist some sort of central database wherein schools can mark that a student was enrolled for X semesters at their institution and if they are in good standing or not. (Almost like an academic credit reporting system.)
The Academic Records office at each school would submit to the database the student's name, social or ID number, place of residence and status.
This could be beneficial in several ways:
- A student would have a tougher time "gaming" the system as stated above.
- A graduate of a school could easily verify their degree and alma mater without submitting transcripts. (At the click of a button employers could check where/when an individual attended.)
- students looking to claim residence to avoid "out of area" tuition would be flagged for the residences on record.
- Law enforcement/immigration officials would have another easy-to-access paper trail to follow.
- colleges would have a snapshot view of a student's academic history with contact info for each of those record-keeping institutions.
It would definitely require a joint effort by all institutions for this to work, much like credit reporting; but it would be for the betterment of all higher education, across the board. Perhaps the Department of Education could organize it? Maybe accrediting bodies would require their schools to submit to this federal register. Or they, themselves, could own databases which are shared among the accrediting organizations as stipulated by the US DoE.