clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Pritzker vows to ‘root’ out parents scamming system for college financial aid for their kids: ‘Shame on you’

“If people are defrauding the system, these wealthy parents are literally committing fraud here,” the governor said. “We need to go find them, root it out and make sure that those dollars go to the right people.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker
Gov. J.B. Pritzker meets with the Sun-Times Editorial Board in June. File Photo.
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Gov. J.B. Pritzker vowed Wednesday to investigate the “fraud” uncovered in a ProPublica Illinois investigation that found well-off Chicago families gave up legal guardianship of their teenage children to qualify for financial aid earmarked for the needy.

Pritzker had a simple message for any parents who took part in the scam: “Shame on you.”

“If people are defrauding the system, these wealthy parents are literally committing fraud here,” Pritzker said at a Chicago news conference. “We need to go find them, root it out and make sure that those dollars go to the right people.”

ProPublica Illinois reported this week that dozens of suburban Chicago families — and potentially more — have given up legal guardianship of their teenage children to qualify for federal, state and university aid. If parents give up guardianship before the teenagers turn 18, the children can independently file for aid.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General has recommended modifying the language on federal financial aid forms following disclosure of the scam, ProPublica Illinois also reported.

“It’s terrible, and I, immediately upon reading it, this report, I called up my staff and am working through my administration to investigate how widespread this problem is in Illinois,” Pritzker said.

The governor noted the Illinois General Assembly this year increased the number of students receiving Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants by 10,000. The grants, which do not have to be repaid, are intended to go to Illinois residents who attend approved Illinois colleges and demonstrate financial need, based on the information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

“We want it to go to the students who are most in need, not to people who are defrauding the system,” Pritzker said. “So we need to look into it to make sure that we’re identifying people that are doing this, calling it out and making sure we’re preventing it from happening in the future.”

Pritzker said the tactic is taking public resources away from students who actually need it, and away from an already limited pool of resources available in the state’s MAP grant program.

“We’ve increased that just this year, but there’s still a limited amount. There are more people applying for Monetary Assistance [Award] Program money than there are dollars that we can provide,” Pritzker said.