The following is a statement from Rashidah Smallwood that was presented at the Career Education Programs and Federal Financial Aid event on February 17, 2011. You can read about the event here.
I worked as a financial aid administrator for 6 years. I valued my job and cherished the opportunity to help students who were in the military or veterans, access an education. I worked at a University of Phoenix branch for 6 years and was satisfied with my work. However, when I relocated to ITT Tech branch in Desoto Texas a realized that many for profit schools are systematically committing fraud while students and the federal government bear the burden.
At ITT I saw just how far some for profit schools will go to obtain as much federal student aid money as possible. I started on the 4th of January 2010 and by September of 2010 I was no longer employed with the company My director of finance was instructing the “dependent” students to produce a “fraudulent” letter stating that they were either homeless or had no idea where their parents were, just so that the school could do the FAFSA as an “independent” student, so that the school could receive the maximum amount of PELL, Subsidized and Unsubsidized funds! ITT is in total control of all financial aid disbursements, not one cent is distributed to the student.
I was deeply disturbed by these practices. But I was forced to take action when the director used my employee information to log false FAFSA information after I refused to do so.
August the 27, 2010, two “dependent” brothers came in to enroll and do financial aid. They explained to me that they had no parent docs because their parents were not citizens and were afraid to give the school any information, so I explained to the brothers that I would not be able to assist them because of their age, they are clearly “dependents”. Well the rep didn’t like that of course and went straight to my director who instructed me to change the FAFSA applications, to make it look as though 1. they had no parents, when they clearly told us that they did and 2. put on the FAFSA that the oldest brother takes care of the younger brother and they can both claim “independent” status. Instead of the director instructing me to change that FAFSA.
I filed a complaint with the ITT Desoto branch and corporate offices and was told that an investigation would be conducted and to not return to work until I was contacted again. That was in August of 2010. I learned that the “investigation” was closed after one day and no action has been taken to remove the offending director from her position.
However, I am out of a job simply because I wanted to stand up for what is right.
Watch Rashidah’s testimony here: