Stories

University of Missouri probes financial aid awards "scam" claims

University of Missouri officials told KBIA Tuesday they're scrutinizing "several dozen" student accounts after ProPublica Illinois reported that wealthy parents are forgoing legal guardianship to "scam" universities into qualifying their children for need-based financial aid.

Why it matters: Although ProPublica’s investigation focused on students in the Chicago suburbs, there is evidence that this practice is occurring nationally, University of Missouri spokesperson Christian Basi told the Columbia Missourian.

The big picture: The University of Missouri was one of several colleges identified by ProPublica in a report published Monday as giving aid to students of parents using the "loophole."

"A number of the children are high-achieving scholars, athletes and musicians who attend or have been accepted to a range of universities, from large public institutions, including the University of Wisconsin, the University of Missouri and Indiana University, to smaller private colleges."
— ProPublica report

What they're saying: Basi told the Columbia Missourian the college had yet to uncover a case, but it was analyzing data points associated with students’ personal and financial records to determine if they're eligible for aid. He told ABC 17 News if the university did uncover any cases, it would report them to the federal government.

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign director of undergraduate admissions Andy Borst told ProPublica the university now asks more questions of students in such instances, which has deterred some families from continuing to seek university aid.
"It’s a scam. Wealthy families are manipulating the financial aid process to be eligible for financial aid they would not be otherwise eligible for. They are taking away opportunities from families that really need it."
— University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Andy Borst to ProPublica