As the popularity of online education grows, it leaves colleges and universities vulnerable to those seeking financial gains through fraudulent means. Columbia College, which educates thousands of students each year through distance education, has employed a successful process to identify potential financial aid fraud, reduce disbursements of aid to fraudulent students and curtail revenue loss—saving the college nearly 6 million dollars.
Through a partnership with ProctorU, an innovative educational tech company that provides student authentication services and live online proctoring, Columbia College has worked to reduce financial aid fraud. ProctorU’s layered authentication service requires students to verify their identity through multiple checkpoints while speaking to a ProctorU representative via a webcam, including presenting a government- or school-issued photo ID and answering randomized security questions. Through this student identity management process, and capturing a webcam photo, the college avoided disbursing nearly $6 million in financial aid funds. Columbia College also employs a team of staff members to identify and investigate possible fraud.
“We’re tackling an important issue by using our staff members’ expertise and ProctorU’s services,” says René Massey, associate dean for Columbia College. “That monetary investment is nothing compared to what is saved by avoiding fraud.”
In a 2013 report to Congress by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General, a risk analysis found that fraud rings of criminals who try to exploit distance education programs to obtain financial aid have increased significantly in the past few years. An estimated $187 million in federal student aid has been lost as a result. Identity management systems and authentication services, like the ones used by Columbia College and provided by ProctorU, significantly curb criminals’ ability to abuse the system. This not only saves millions of dollars, but it also increases retention rates and lowers loan default rates.
“Testing isn’t the only place institutions have to worry about cheating. Online identity fraud is a growing issue and institutions need to be sure that they are indeed interacting with the student,” ProctorU President Don Kassner said.
Columbia College prides itself on its ability to adapt to change and embrace innovation by offering educational programs that meet the needs of an ever-changing society, according to college officials. The college often has been among the first colleges to innovate in higher education by providing new adult learner formats, military education and online education. Now, nearly 16,000 students take at least one online course each year at Columbia College. The Online Campus at Columbia College offers more than 800 accredited online classes and 27 accredited online degree programs.
For more information about Columbia College, visit www.ccis.edu. For more information about ProctorU visit www.proctoru.com.
About Columbia College
Founded in 1851 in Columbia, Missouri, Columbia College has been helping students advance their lives through higher education for more than 160 years. As a private, nonprofit, liberal arts and sciences institution, the college takes pride in its small classes, experienced faculty and quality educational programs. With more than 30 campuses across the country, 18 of which are on military installations, students may enroll in day, evening or online classes. The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association. Columbia College educates more than 31,000 students each year and has more than 84,000 alumni.
ProctorU provides student identity management and live proctoring services to higher education institutions. ProctorU helps institutions adapt to the evolving educational landscape by enhancing the online education experience, making it simple to authenticate student identity and test students anywhere. Through a variety of methods, including a 3-step authentication process, and multiple checkpoints for identity verification, ProctorU helps institutions ensure academic integrity and the quality and value of today’s courses and degrees. Founded in 2008, ProctorU has administered nearly 1 million exams for test-takers in 75 countries and works with more than 500 institutions. The company has four facilities across the U.S. and employs over 400 people.