Exposing Financial Aid Fraud with Online Proctoring


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Imagine all the things your institution is doing to fight the high cost of higher education. Are you facing increased pressure to find efficiencies, reduce lab, book, and other classroom costs? Are you being challenged to rethink things that effect the way you teach? As you and your administration work so hard to save a few dollars, consider this:

According to the U.S. Department of Education, between 2011 and 2014, around $200 million was lost to financial aid fraud. That’s a staggering amount of money. Imagine how many honorable students could have received an education if the fraud was caught earlier – or prevented altogether.

Recently, ProctorU helped a private Midwestern non-profit school save nearly $6 million dollars by assisting in breaking up a financial aid fraud ring. At first, the institution was looking for a proctoring service to help their distance learning students save time. Because ProctorU requires a multi-layered identity authentication process, far superior to the typical challenge questions some solutions offer, much more was discovered about the identity of test-takers. Shortly after the partnership with ProctorU began, the institution was made aware of identity inconsistencies in the student body. These inconsistencies were enough to launch an investigation that allowed the institution to finally rid themselves of a sophisticated criminal group that had been robbing them.

How can you tell if this brand of criminal is infiltrating your school? In our look at Cheating in the Digital Age, there are a number of red flags to look for, including: 

  • Students seeking maximum financial aid refunds and/or calling a school’s financial aid office multiple times checking on the status of a refund;
  • Students enrolling in classes every semester and then dropping them after financial aid is dispersed;
  • Students repeatedly enrolling in classes, but never completing assignments or taking part in discussions;
  • Strange addresses, or addresses with weird similarities, “such as seeing the pattern of 10 Red Street, 10 Green Street, 10 Brown Street,” etc., on multiple applications.

How can your school avoid costly repercussions related to financial aid fraud? 

1. Evaluate current policies

  • Many administrators employ honor codes throughout their schools which students must sign at the start of a course. Honor codes are fine, but they’re simply put in place so that if a student is caught cheating, the school has grounds to expel the student. To truly deter individuals from committing financial aid fraud (and cheating on online examinations, for that matter), some form of online proctoring help should be considered.

2. Find an online proctoring service that meets your needs

  • Do they follow a rigorous multi-tiered identity authentication, i.e., ID confirmation, keystroke biometrics and authentication questions?
  • Do they focus more on catching cheaters in the act or on preventing cheating from occurring in the first place? 
  • Do they offer live as well as fully-automated proctoring? Both systems have benefits, and it’s important to choose the option that best fits all of your faculty’s needs. Several schools utilize both choices, depending on what each department wants.

3. Be an active party to your online proctoring service

  • Know your proctoring service inside and out so that you can market to other professors and have thorough instructions ready for your students. If the service implements any updates, be sure to communicate these to your students. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and take part in live demos. A proctoring service is just that – a service.

What ever happened to the Midwestern school for which ProctorU saved millions? “We’ve seen a drop-off in enrollment because of these protections, which worried our president at first, but, in the long run, it is saving us money and protecting our school,” explained the campus spokesperson. “It’s like having a sign for a security company outside your home.” 

Are you ready to protect your institution and heighten online exam security? It’s never to early to ensure that you’re safe from financial aid fraud. How much money can you save your school?