In her article "How Some Students Are Using Fake Marriages to Get Financial Aid", Michaela Cross describes, “what some would call a bureaucratic loophole, and others would call a federal crime.” The idea is simple, students change their status from dependent to independent by marrying and take advantage of both public and private tuition assistance. The article, which appeared on the website Vice, reveals what may be a serious scam, then explores to what extent it is currently being perpetrated.
Cross begins with a description of an anonymous student (Cross refers to her as Laila Mizami) who purchased a marriage license a week before signing a FASFA application for an ivy league school she was attending. Because her impending marriage changed her status to independent and her parents finances were no longer being considered in determining her eligibility for aid, Mizami received roughly $20,000 in grants and an additional Pell grant of $5,000. While Mizami obtained the marriage license with every intention of marrying, there was ultimately no wedding. This was when Mizami suddenly realized that,"all this money (was) coming in on the basis of being married.” When she explained the situation to her financial advisor, she was told not to worry. Because the FAFSA is self-reported, in other words not verified by the government, she wouldn't have to prove that she was actually married to take the grants.”
The article also tells the story of a Rick Conley, a former member of the Air Force. Conley had figured out that some people “got married to take advantage of the benefits given to married couples by the military. Realizing, “if two college kids got married, the college would give free tuition,” Conley founded the website whypaytuition.com. The site which is no longer available was “set up like a dating site for tuition-based marriages.”
Besides detailing the punishments for students who attempt such a scheme - perjury for providing false information on the FASFA and fraud for accepting the funds - Cross attempts to find out just how widespread this practice might be.
To learn just how extensive this scam is click here to read the full post.