The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

89° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Students who lie on FAFSA hurt other’s chances at education

    Students looking for financial aid are filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid before its due date, March 1. Unfortunately, too many well-off students and families lie on the FAFSA to get aid that they don’t deserve. Recently the government has had to implement new processes to find fraudulent applications, which have been increasing. For the sake of honesty and students who actually need the money, tell the truth on your financial aid forms.

    Students and families have been lying on these forms since the beginnings of federal aid. According to The College Planning Network, most of these lies involve hiding assets or overstating how many family members are enrolled at college. Some families, even here at the UA, pretend they live in a single-parent household when both parents are financially supportive, or put their second home in a relative’s name so they don’t have to list it as an asset.

    College is expensive, and obviously no one wants to pay more than they have to. But hiding money to save a few tuition dollars is unfair to families who truly need the aid.

    Without money from the government, many students would not be able to afford more than a high school education, which greatly restricts job opportunities and salary potential.

    Because of federal aid, college enrollment has been able to increase over the years and more people can benefit from a college education. According to the CollegeBoard Trends in Student Aid 2011 Report, in 1990 the government gave nearly $7 billion to 5.5 million students. In 2010, it gave more than $53 billion to 24.5 million students.

    Unfortunately, financial aid is limited, and the government isn’t financially stable enough to pay for everyone’s college education. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the national deficit is increasing by about $4 billion every day, and as of Feb. 18, the country was $15.4 trillion in debt. This deficit will be a burden for taxpayers for years to come, and adding to it with financial aid fraud is unfair to Americans.

    The government has consistently been making changes in FAFSA processing to prevent fraud. According to the Department of Education, as of 2012, the FAFSA Central Processing System “rejects records when applicants and/or parents claim to be ‘non-filers,’ but report income above IRS filing requirements.” Also, the Department of Defense started matching records in May 2010, and has only recently required applicants who state that their parents have died to verify the date of death.

    Penalties for lying on the FAFSA include paying all of the aid back, and possibly being fined $20,000 and sent to prison. Every college is required to audit at least 30 percent of the applications, and some even audit every application. Even without worrying about moral implications, the risk of getting caught is high.

    We learned in kindergarten that lying and cheating is wrong, and in college, parents who encourage cheating the system should be better examples for students. Here at the UA, we are told to have academic and personal integrity, lest we face the consequences. Is it fair to take taxpayer money that you don’t need? Is it fair that your friend who went to private school qualified for work study over someone else? The people and institutions that truly need the money probably wouldn’t think so.

    — Lauren Shores is a journalism sophomore. She can reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search