College stops ‘fake students’

Allen Community College administration has taken preventative action concerning the enrollment of "fake students."



June 12, 2024 - 2:10 PM

Lauren Maisberger, director of development for Allen Community College, gives an endowment report to the board of trustees Tuesday. Behind her is Jacob Reichard, director of instutional effectiveness and research. Register file photo

Allen Community College encountered a rash of identity theft cases recently, as “fake students” attempted to enroll for the summer and fall semesters.

Administrators and staff were able to identify the problem and the group that was responsible fairly early in the enrollment process, and have taken preventative action, Cynthia Jacobson, vice president for student affairs, said.

“It’s always an ongoing issue,” she said. “Over the years we’ve had different groups try this but this one was probably a little bigger than we’ve had before.”

Staff identified about 35 individuals who attempted or succeeded in enrolling. Those individuals used the identities of real people as part of a scam. The goal is either to obtain an email address from an educational institution that allows students to obtain free Microsoft packages they can sell, or to access federal aid, Jacobson said.

Jacobson said the fake students were identified because their applications were in all caps, all except one was older than 45, and they did not turn on cameras during Zoom advising sessions.

The college has since taken steps to better verify student identities.

IN OTHER news, college trustees:

• Received an enrollment report for the spring session and early fall enrollment. Summer enrollment is down slightly but fall enrollment is slightly higher than the same point last year.

• Heard a report from Lauren Maisberger about how endowment scholarships work. The college uses interest gained from its endowment funds the previous year to fund scholarships for the next year. The amount varies each year because of fluctuations in financial markets. Some endowment scholarships come with specific qualifications, and are given to students who meet those requirements. If the interest earned from endowments isn’t enough to match the dollar amount of the scholarships, the difference between is made up by student fees. During the 2022-23 school year, endowment interest came in at $255,154.41. During the 2023-24 school year, that number dropped to $192,709.4. Maisberger didn’t have figures yet for the coming year but expects it to be higher because of higher capital gains. She also reported the college has collected $33,393.63 from fundraisers such as its annual gala and auction. That’s short of her goal of $50,000 but the second-highest since 2017.

• Heard a report from trustee Jessica Thompson about changes in state and federal legislation. All employees will be required to complete training on Title IX. Administrators also are adapting to new salary and overtime rules from the Department of Labor, though Thompson said she expects that to be challenged. Transcripts can only be held for a limited period of time and cannot be held if a student received a Pell Grant; Allen previously held transcripts if a student had unpaid debt. A new Kansas law will require Allen to publish any DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) training on its website or face a significant fine.

• Heard a report from Josia D’Albini about plans to end a requirement that students must take a minimum number of on-campus credit hours to live in dormitories. More students are taking online or hybrid classes, so the requirement creates barriers for those students. Fewer students also are living in dormitories so this could encourage them to live on campus, D’Albini said. The rule change takes effect in the 2025-26 school year.

• Trustees Vicki Curry and Gena Clounch were appointed to a new finance committee, and were asked to recommend three people from the community to join them.