MU reacts to investigation into financial assistance scheme

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COLUMBIA - A recent investigation in Chicago found some wealthy parents have been giving up guardianship of their children during high school years in order to make college more affordable.

Investigative journalism organization ProPublica reported the change happens during a student's junior or senior year of high school, with the guardianship going to a friend or family member. This allows college-bound students to declare themselves financially independent, which allows them to qualify for federal, state, and university aid for which they would otherwise be ineligible.

University of Missouri spokesperson Christian Basi said this financial aid scam has caused him to watch applicants more closely. He said learning about this is frustrating and the university is taking action to ensure that no one is taking advantage when applying to the University of Missouri.

ProPublica discovered more than 40 such guardianship transfer cases filed between January 2018 and June 2019 in the Chicago suburbs of Lake County. The investigation found parents involved in this case include lawyers, a doctor, school officials, insurance agents, and real estate agents. Students involved in this case are high-achieving scholars, athletes and musicians who attend or have been accepted to a range of universities, including the University of Missouri.

"MU is able to flag the paper work that comes in after students fill out their FAFSA form. We then do a bit of investigation and find out when the guardianship was put in place how long has it been there, and what the financial resources of the students parents were before they gave up guardianship," Basi said.

According to Basi, people who participate in this scandal are taking money away from students who actually qualify.

"They're pulling on institutional and federal resources that are coming from state tax payer dollars, tuition dollars, that they would otherwise not be eligible for," Basi said.

Morgan Myers, a senior at the university, said those who participate in this scandal are simply greedy.

"I know students like me who actually need financial aid are angry to hear that people are doing something like this," Myers said. "It's not fair how students are taking advantage of a system that's just trying to help people get through college."

Basi said that the university has the right to adjust financial aid awards for students who are involved in case like this and they will alert FAFSA.