Rep. Bryant: Cheating Illinois’ Financial Aid System ‘Reprehensible’

Murphysboro….Illinois State Representative Terri Bryant (R-Murphysboro) is expressing serious concerns following news reports on Tuesday revealing possible widespread abuse of the state and federal student financial aid system. Rep. Bryant is a standing member of the Illinois House of Representatives Higher Education and Higher Education Appropriations Committees.

“The reports that I read in the media today regarding affluent families giving up legal guardianship of their children to relatives, and then having that student apply for financial aid on their own financial merits, shows possible widespread abuse of our student loan and financial aid system,” Bryant said. “Low interest loans and MAP grants are supposed to give lower income students a better chance at receiving a post-secondary education. The money is not there for rich families to use at the expense of low income families,” Bryant said.

On Tuesday, Pro-Publica Illinois published an article on its website that detailed the disturbing practice. The news outlet’s investigation uncovered 48 separate instances in Lake County alone in the last 18 months. Rep. Bryant says she will pursue all possible avenues to stamp out fraud and any abuse of Illinois’ student loan and financial aid programs.

“What I would like to see is the legislature take action to protect our student loan and financial aid programs,” Bryant said. “As a member of the Higher Ed and Higher Ed Appropriations Committees, I am obligated to protect and defend Illinois’ institutions of higher education against abuses like these. What we are talking about here is parents are fraudulently giving up guardianship of their children to a relative, and then allowing that 18-year-old student to apply for financial aid using their own financial backgrounds. Most 18-year-olds that I know do not have much money. This then becomes an easy way to scheme the system to get financial aid money or low cost loans that the family would not otherwise be able to get. This kind of fraud is reprehensible on many levels, not the least of which is that it teaches a horrible lesson to impressionable young people about how to get ahead.”

Bryant says low-income students are the ones that will ultimately suffer the consequences of any abuse of the financial aid system.

“The fact is that by engaging in this kind of behavior, parents are teaching their kids that it is ok to steal, to be dishonest and to receive money you are not entitled to,” Bryant said. “A truly sad result of this is that the money that is going to the students that are doing this is then not available for students from lower income homes. This is something that I will be actively pursuing in the coming legislative session. The State of Illinois must act to stop this abuse.”