I decided to start with something that I think is a big problem at WGU – financial aid fraud!  It took me a few years (I’m a slow learner) to figure out how it happens, but now that I know – I’m mad!  Frankly, taxpayers would be furious if they knew what happened here.  Let me tell you how it works…..

Ben (a false name of course) registers to attend WGU as a full-time student.  During his first 6-month term, he passes just one class worth 3 CUs (CUs  stands for competency units and are like credit hours at other universities).  Now, what is important for everyone to consider is that in this case Ben did not even try to pass his other courses!!  He didn’t take notes, do quizzes or even fail the exam!  HE DIDN’T “SHOW UP” TO THE COURSE ONCE  AND WAS NOT SUSPENDED OR EXPELLED FROM THE UNIVERSITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  But because he talked to his mentor off and on throughout the term, he was able to stay enrolled and collect ALL of his financial aid money.   He admitted to using the money to start a new business.  The new business was consuming a great deal of his time and that is why he said he didn’t work on his other courses – he was busy.  Unbelievable.  He’s using federal loans to pay for his education and tuition at WGU is really cheap, about $3,000 per term, so he was able to collect a ton of “overage” – somewhere around $8,000.  $8,000 to start his new business!!!  Paid for by me and you – the American taxpayer!  OK, there is some more you should know.  Because WGU is so “generous” (with taxpayer dollars) they allowed Ben to register for ANOTHER term and “try again”.  So, Ben registered again as a full-time student, collected around another $8,000 dollars from the taxpayer and this time passed two courses.  Improvement right??  Well, when you consider that he was supposed to complete four courses to be full-time, he’s obviously still far from the mark.  OK….here’s the rub – WGU, again being oh so generous with the taxpayer dollars, see he’s “improving”, AND GRANT HIM ANOTHER TERM OF FINANCIAL AID!!  What??  Are we nuts?? Another $8,000 of overage for his “business” while he’s completing 50% or less of his courses?  Again, he’s not even “showing up” for them!  He’s not even trying!   Ben has collected over $20,000 of taxpayer dollars and he’s completed only three courses.  Yes, three is the total because in his third term he didn’t complete a single course.  Yep, that’s what I said – he didn’t complete a single course and we still paid him his $8,000 of financial aid overage.  Unbelievable.

I know some of my co-workers are not outraged by this because they believe that the money is a loan and the student will have to pay it back eventually. I think they’re being a bit overoptimistic.  Check out this recent article from the New York times, stating that default rates are sharply increasing.  It also talks about the new loan repayment programs that limits monthly payments to about 15% of the student’s discretionary income for 25 years, then the rest of the loan is forgiven.  OK, let’s think about that, when a student makes $35,000 and has a family of 4, their repayment amount is $18 per month.  If they only make $30,000 and have a family of 4, they pay NOTHING.  Don’t believe me?  Check it out here

Fellow WGU employees, what do you think?  Am I the only mentor that has seen this happen?

Fellow taxpayers, what do you think?  Does this upset you?

Everyone at the Dept of Education – is this fraud?  Misrepresentation?





15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by johnnymoney on January 24, 2012 at 4:19 am

    In terms of Fraud, I could not agree more! There are too many students who just get the 67% done and then stop. They get their “paycheck” at the start of the term – some with very, very excessive overage amounts because as Jenny Ryan Allen would say, “we shook the money tree for them” to see how much extra they could get for living expsenses etc. approved exspenses I understand. I have many Bens as the person before me disscussed. They are starting businesses etc. with the overages but NOT doing their coursework. And of course, that is my fault as I should just learn how to be a better student mentor then they would get 100% of their coursework done.

    I would say about 50% of the 100 students I am assigned to support do not get more than 67% of their coursework done (thus my 50% OTP – only 50% of the students are getting 100% of the minimum 12 units completed – On Track Progress) Why do they only get that much done?? Because they know that they will still get the paycheck even though they only got 67% of their coursework completed.

    Now of that 50% it is about another 50/50 split of who truly did engagande attempt the course in their 6 mos. term but then failed but the other 50% blatantly state that they just will not be getting any more work done in the term – they were just too busy with work and family etc. Well, guess what, when they only get 8 or 9 or worse yet, less units done per term they are NOT a FT student anymore and should have to start paying back their student loan immedately! As a taxpayer, I am peeved right now that this misrepresntation is allowed to continue on such a large scale. And when the student does not meet the minimum of 12 units, WGU has to pay back back the Feds, so of course someone’s head has to roll and so of course, it is the student mentor’s head…like the Glassdoor article showed, it appears that 20% of the student mentor population has to go…so raise the bar of success and then fire the ones who do not meet the aggressvie KPIs that are not in alignment with student goals.

    So everyone wins in this flawed model except me – and me is any student mentor here at WGU and every taxpayer out there!! WGU got their full 3K tuition for the 80% or so of the students on Federal Financial Aid (like a Section 8 landlord getting their guarenteed rent from the Govt) and the student gets to keep all money and not have to start paying back their student loan though they are only a PART TIME student and they continue to receive the federal finanical aid for the subsequent terms.

    …but I get in trouble as I have not met my OTP goal. Nice. That’s right…I fell into a burning ring of fire…

    Don’t get me wrong, WGU is a very affordable program that offers robust coursework and material where the students do have to truly demonstarte that they have masterered the compentencies and EARN their degree. It is not a degree mill…So the other 50% of the studetns I work with who are completing 12 units or more per term, some much, much more and earning their degrees at a rapid pace are truly benefitting legitimately from the WGU model and good for them. Now let’s just hope they do not default on paying back their student loan when done with their degree.

    Let’s say I am the soul provider for my family and earn a very high salary and provide a nice home and clothing and food for my family but then beat my wife and kids every night. Am I a good father because I earn a good salary and provide the essentials?? No, I am not a good father if I beat my wife and kids that is wrong…just wrong and I should be punished…Do not turn your back to the negatives of the WGU model just because there are so many positives. This fraud needs to cease and desist.


    • Johnny – Thanks for the post. As you can tell, I’m really struggling with this too. I’ve been combing through various college and universities websites, as well as the US Dept of Ed websites, and they all appear to say the same thing – if you drop below full-time you have to notify someone and it will change the amount of money you receive for financial aid. I’m not saying these students shouldn’t get financial aid. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that the students the consistently do not complete their full-time course load shouldn’t be allowed to borrow money (provided by you and me and other taxpayers) at the full-time “rate”.

      I have found a few interesting things to share with you. First – according to the Direct Loan website (the federal student loan site)….

      Using the loan for education expenses: You may use the loan money you receive only to pay for your education expenses at the school that is giving you the loan. Education expenses include school charges such as tuition, room and board, fees and indirect expenses such as books, supplies, equipment, dependent child care expenses, transportation and rental or purchase of a personal computer. I notice they don’t include starting a business or taking the family to Disneyland, but maybe it’s in the fine print somewhere.

      Here is some language from another university’s website…

      If you are enrolled in 6-8 units, your status is half-time; if you are enrolled in 9-11 units, your status is three-quarter time; if you are enrolled in 12 units, your status is full-time. So are WGU students that are only completing (engaging) in 6 to 8 CUs part-time students too? Hmmm. The website goes on to say that if you enroll part-time or three-quarter time, you still get some financial aid – not just the full-time amount. Again – hmmm. So our students could stay enrolled and pursue their degree (while still receiving financial aid) but they just wouldn’t receive the full-time amount.

      Some additional information from the same university…

      Q. What happens if I receive a payment and then drop a class?

      A. If you drop a class on or before census date (the 20th day of instruction) and your enrollment status changes as a result, you may be required to repay part or all of the funds received. For example, if you receive a full-time Federal Pell Grant payment (100% of the awarded amount) and you drop to 9 units by the start of the fifth week of the semester, your enrollment status changes from full-time to three-quarter time and you may have to repay 25% of the paid amount. Your enrollment status is “frozen” on census date and you are expected to earn credit for all classes in which you were enrolled. “You are expected to earn credit for all classes in which you were enrolled”??? Wow! Interesting idea.

      OK, this one is a little confusing, but I think you can figure it out…


      You may not be able to pick up any further aid based on enrollment requirements to receive aid, and your future aid eligibility may be affected due to Satisfactory Academic Progress requirements. In addition, if you pass fewer than full-time but at least half-time credits at the end of the quarter for which you receive aid, you will be put on financial aid probation and you may lose your eligibility at the end of the year if you are short of the annual credit requirement. If you drop below half-time, you will lose your eligibility for aid at the end of the quarter (unless you received “less than half-time aid” for the specific number of credits that you passed); and if you have student loans, you will begin your grace period. Does that say what I think it says?? At this university if you pass less than a half-time load of courses you lose your eligibility for financial aid at the end of the quarter!!! You don’t get 18 months?? What!! I’m outraged! (Oozing sarcasm)

      I know I’m beating a dead horse here Johnny, but I just don’t understand why we don’t set some financial aid policies that hold the students to some standard. We surely know how to establish rigorous policies and standards – just look at the requirements to be a mentor….


  2. Posted by MAC on January 24, 2012 at 5:15 am

    My experience with fraud was a bit different. Jack was a student in my first monthly cohort. He was charming, always polite, answered the phone regularly, on the second call. He completed EWB and BBC, but then started running into all manner of scheduling problems, giving excuses for how he couldn’t get the work done. Meanwhile another mentor in the office who I was training with was complaining about a similar problem, a charming young man, Bill, who completed EWB, passed BBC, but then failed BAC. We compared notes, lo and behold, both student lived at the same address and had the same phone number. Odd, but who knows?

    Well fast forward a week or two and I finally get Jack to agree to take the BAC assessment. I get an email the next day that he is being investigated for fraud. Yup, you guessed it, Jack and Bill were the same person (also enrolled as Phil, Dan and Andy). Unfortunately, this is not an unusual scam in the world of online education as can be viewed here,

    The kicker? I am still waiting for that number to drop from my retention KPI.


    • Posted by MAC on January 24, 2012 at 5:21 am

      Oh, and if you are wondering how they caught him? OLP, of course!


    • Posted by james on September 16, 2012 at 4:07 pm

      You think this doesn’t happen ALL the time at traditional Universities? People take easy classes with 300 plus students so it doesn’t matter if they are there or not, they have other people take their exams etc…


  3. Posted by Sizer on May 1, 2012 at 2:44 am

    Are you aware that WGU’s Financial Aid dept. has a fraud investigation department? You can report students to the fraud investigator and if it is legit, it can be passed on to the federal government for prosecution.


  4. The rules for repayment are what they are, and they apply to any school. You seem to be implying that students are becoming baby factories just to avoid paying student loans?


  5. Posted by Jori on June 25, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    A lot of people do this. At the local community college I am attending people use their FIN AID money ~not~ for school. They can easily slip thru the cracks unnoticed and I dont know how they all do it. A lot of students at my school take out 5,000 a semester to either put a down payment on a car or just to have extra cash/eat/buy shit and nothing for school. Many will usually not finish school and just do it for the cash. I know cos my sister did it. Oy vey. Also, report these students when you find them! They’re going to make it hard on actual students who actually need the frigging loan. No one sees it as a problem when it is pointed out at my school either because “they have to pay them back” and for me its…you’re using money that someone else could have gotten..


  6. Posted by No one on July 15, 2012 at 11:32 pm

    Reporting from the enrollment side here. It’s insane the amount of students we try to weed out because it’s so obvious they are just enrolling to receive FA. Tuition is so low that I just don’t understand why they take out the full amount. Makes me very mad, actually. Our tax money goes towards their fraud. There are so many students that I don’t want to enroll because I can smell their shit, but I have to at the end of the day. I understand needing some living expenses if you’re unemployed, but money to move to an expensive state on a whim? Come on.


  7. Posted by Jess on August 27, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    You obviously must NOT attend WGU!! If he only passed one course, he’d be put on probation! The second term if he did not me SAP, he wouldn’t be eligible for FA for a third term! Do some research first before posting heinous lies! I am ready to graduate from there and they post their FA policy right for the world to see. They do have an appeal, but with a record like that it would not be allowed. Also, talking to your mentor on and off has nothing to do with passing!!!!


    • Posted by Kristina on November 1, 2012 at 5:25 pm

      Thank you for this unformed response. I too attended WGU, as did my husband and son. There is no way that the described scenario could have occurred. In addition, because students are able to prove competency through rigorous courses of study and exams, they can actually require far less financial aid. I completed a 5 1/2 year course of study in 2 terms while working full-time and being a mom. WGU’s requirements have actually saved the government financial aid costs. Research prior to venting is always recommended. =)


    • Posted by Kristina on November 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm

      Thank you for this informed response. I too attended WGU, as did my husband and son. There is no way that the described scenario could have occurred. In addition, because students are able to prove competency through rigorous courses of study and exams, they can actually require far less financial aid. I completed a 5 1/2 year course of study in 2 terms while working full-time and being a mom. WGU’s requirements have actually saved the government financial aid costs. Research prior to venting is always recommended. =)


  8. Posted by Jess on August 27, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Oh and I am a mother of 2 and I quit my job during my last year. I took ALL of my FA to save up for DT! Just because people take all of it, doesn’t mean anything!!


  9. Posted by milieu on November 8, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    While it’s true that you can delay repayment of loans for a long time, those are showing up on Ben’s credit report. Ben gets to get worse interest rates and denied credit for life. Ben might even get refused for jobs and apartment rentals. One thing is certain…Ben will never get another student loan for life. So he’s destroyed his chance of getting an education too.

    Not to mention student loans are the worst kind of debt. You CAN NOT get rid of it in bankruptcy, except in very rare circumstances. So Ben gets this for the rest of his life, plus collectors.

    Ben’s an idiot. Don’t worry about him “getting away” with $20k of taxpayer-subsidized loans.


  10. Posted by Somebody at wgu on November 9, 2012 at 12:24 am

    I guess I am one of the students that would be of fraud. I took ten years to get my degree fighting tooth and nail. I have dyslexia in reading and math. I could not get past the remedial math courses at other universities. When I found WGU I was about to drop out of school because of the huge amount of debt I had collected over the seven years of trying everything I could to get the right support so that I could move forward in my studies. My first time at WGU things where going really well untill I had to have two major two major surgeries. My mentor was a fast talker who I caught in utter lies. He missed appointments and even went as far one time as telling me that he was on call at his other job and had to go before I could explain to him that I was having trouble. This went on for two months. The last contact I had with him I sent him an by email saying that for the next three weeks I was going to be out of pocket because of the surgeries but I would call him after my surgery. That was on a Thursday and by Monday of the following week the very day I was getting operated on he removed me from WGU. When I called him the following week he told me I was no longer his student. It took me three days but once they say my emails I was back in the program after having to pay a 25 dollar fee. I demand another mentor and it was approved. I only passed three classes that term and ended up failing two. I was immediately put on probation and had to make 100% sap or risk losing my finical aid. That was the only term that I did not make 100% sap by the way. I am a grad now and I just don’t know about your take on how the finical aid program works at wgu.


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