Fraudulent enrollment hits California community colleges hard due to online learning

Fraudulent student accounts linked to possible financial aid fraud


Enrollment fraud has increased at American River College and many other California Community Colleges, as classes have been primarily taught online due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the fall semester of 2021. (Photo via Unsplash)

American River College and other Los Rios colleges have been affected by a surge of suspected fraud enrollment, which has also affected other colleges throughout the state according to the Los Rios Community College District. 

“Fraudulent enrollment … is defined as a student who has registered for a class but is subsequently removed due to suspected fraud,” said Frank Kobayashi, vice president of instruction at American River College, in an email to the Current. 

In an August 31 article, the Los Angeles Times reported that fraudulent student accounts were linked to possible financial aid fraud.

There are 116 community colleges in the state, and the systems that represent the colleges are increasing their security measures after seeing that 20% of related activity was “malicious and bot related,” according to the LA Times and a memo issued by Valerie Lundy-Wagner, interim vice-chancellor of digital innovation and infrastructure of California Community Colleges.

A software program used in most of the colleges has helped catch perpetrators.

 A program called Imperva Advanced Bot Detection has helped somewhat contain fraudulent enrollment, ‘’catching nearly 15% of traffic,” Lundy Wagner said in the memo.

“Instances of fraudulent enrollment have occurred at California campuses, specifically close to home, in the Los Rios Community College District,” according to Gabe Ross, the associate vice chancellor of strategy and communications of the LRCCD. 

 All four colleges have been targeted, Ross said in an email to the Current.

“We are working closely with statewide leaders on plans to address this issue and continue to ensure that it has no broader impact on our students, faculty, or staff,” Ross said in an email to the Current.  

According to Kobayashi, ARC has experienced numerous cases of enrollment fraud.

“There have been at least 1,200 confirmed cases of registration fraud. We have a daily process in place that identifies enrollments that may be fraudulent and, after a verification process, we quickly disenrolled them and shut down access to all district and college services,” Kobayashi said. 

Kobayashi also detailed the consequences for committing fraudulent enrollment.

“All fraudulent applicants are immediately dropped from all Los Rios classes, their access to all college and district services is terminated, and they are flagged for future applications,” Kobayashi said.

Kobayashi says that the district is committed to stopping fraudulent enrollment. 

“It is clear that throughout the state, bad actors are attempting to take advantage of vulnerabilities in our networks,” Kobayashi said. “American River College and the Los Rios Community College District are committed to reducing information and cybersecurity threats during the admission and onboarding process. We are also committed to ensuring access to all legitimate students.”