Originally published in May, 2015.
A major milestone for many adults of all ages is the decision to attain higher education. A college degree can be an important piece of the puzzle for those pursuing careers in any field, and federal financial aid helps many students achieve their goals.
However, federal student aid (FSA) fraud lurks in the background, threatening to steal deserving students’ futures. FSA programs can be abused in various ways. For example, individuals might apply under false pretenses or fabricate documents in order to be awarded funds or amounts they are unqualified to receive. Or students may squander their financial aid on luxury items unrelated to learning. Organized FSA fraud schemes also plague the industry — ringleaders steal identities or recruit straw students in order to gain unlawful access to FSA funds. However, organizations like the Apollo Education Group are taking concrete steps to thwart this type of fraud and abuse.
"We are susceptible to all of the same types of fraud any organization of our size and global footprint would be," says Jim Berg, Vice President and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer at Apollo Education Group. "We also see frauds more specific to our industry, such as federal student aid programs, or 'financial aid.' Our brand recognition makes us a very popular target for fraudsters. Fortunately, we have developed an industry-leading program to combat such organized, external attacks."
It’s with this forward-thinking approach to combating fraud that Apollo Education Group decided to join forces with the ACFE’s Corporate Alliance Program. One of the world’s largest private education providers, Apollo Education Group offers innovative and distinctive educational programs and services, online and on campus, at all levels. Apollo’s subsidiaries include University of Phoenix, College for Financial Planning, Western International University and several learning institutions outside the U.S.
Apollo Education Group Corporate Headquarters in Phoenix, AZ
"We are proud to be at the forefront of our industry and to have been able to make quality education accessible to hundreds of thousands of students during the last 40 years," says Joseph Agins, CFE, Director, Ethics and Compliance Investigations. "Since our beginning, our shared mission has been to help students achieve their goals in life by providing academic support, state-of-the-art learning platforms and tools, and motivated staff and faculty, all while meeting rigorous accreditation standards.
"We have been strongly linked to the ACFE for many, many years now and count a multitude CFEs within our employee ranks," continues Agins. "We know fraud is going to happen and we understand that we must be prepared if we are going to combat it successfully. Apollo Education Group’s commitment to ethics and integrity is unwavering and we have put a great deal of time, effort and strategic thinking into creating a best-in-class ethics and compliance program. We see joining the Corporate Alliance as consistent with this overall effort.”
According to Agins, Apollo Education Group’s alignment with the Corporate Alliance will allow them to leverage more training, add more CFEs to their existing ranks, and broaden their relationships with other Corporate Alliance member organizations to meet and share best practices. They’ve designed a strong process for identifying and investigating fraud, and they expect this initiative to grow in strength.
Using the CFE credential has also been an invaluable tool for Apollo Education Group’s team members. "The CFE credential not only helps our team members investigate fraud, but more importantly, it helps them understand why and where fraud exists, how it occurs and what motivates its perpetrators," says Berg. "It’s necessary to understand how to analyze, audit, investigate, interview and write good reports, and the ACFE helps with all of this. The CFE credential helps one dig much deeper and understand the bigger picture. This more holistic education and approach really makes the individual who holds the CFE a formidable opponent to fraudsters."
According to Agins, Apollo Education Group regularly trains and shares best practices with other colleges and universities, because when fraud happens in this area, it truly hurts "us all." Colleges, universities, students, prospective students, parents and taxpayers all feel the effects of FSA fraud. "This federal program was designed and developed to help people realize their educational dreams and goals," says Agins. "So, when it’s attacked and funds are siphoned off to line the pockets of fraudsters, this takes away from the resources of legitimate students, institutions and the taxpayer."
However, Apollo Education Group is committed to putting these fraudsters out of business. "Even with the valiant efforts of the ACFE and others, the future for the fraudster will only gain strength if we’re fractured, unaligned and don’t take these matters seriously," continues Agins. "Fraudsters are learning to leverage new and existing technologies, and are sharing plans with one another. And so we must invest in our anti-fraud programs."
Strong leadership and the desire to thwart these fraudsters is an important goal of Apollo Education Group. "We are proud of our leadership role in this area and of the many institutions that have come together to fight this common enemy," finishes Berg. "Therefore, the decision to join the Corporate Alliance was truly an obvious choice for us."
Contact for more information:
Phone: (800) 245-3321
International: +1 (512) 478-9000