The Departments of Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and Social Security have existing programs, which deny benefits to persons who are wanted in other jurisdictions in local, state, and federal databases for felony offenses. These absconders from justice may use the benefits they receive to further their escape from facing justice and should not be entitled to taxpayer funds until their obligations have been satisfied.
This program if implemented at the Department of Education is a direct alignment with the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act signed into law in 2010. In a White House press release fact sheet dated July 22, 2010, stated over $230 million dollars in benefits was given to over 14,000 fugitives or incarcerated felons who were not eligible to receive benefits. At the Department of Education, those incarcerated are already not eligible for benefits but this has not kept my agency from repeatedly finding those currently incarcerated receiving benefits to attend online universities or correspondence courses. There is however, no program at the Department of Education, which keeps wanted fugitive felons from receiving federal student aid funds.
The information provided to apply for federal financial aid from the Department of Education could be compared with information contained in the National Crime Information Center database maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and those results which have positive results properly vetted could provide information to local, state and federal law enforcement to apprehend the offenders and bring them to justice. We currently compare information contained in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid to records located at the Social Security Administration, Selective Service, Department of Homeland Security, and other databases for eligibility determination. This would be an additional larger review of to prevent funds from being provided to fugitive felons or incarcerated inmates.
The Department of Agriculture’s program in its first year netted over 6,700 arrests, of which 1,500 were violent offenders. With the arrests made, a total cost avoidance based on today’s family monthly benefit average would total nearly $17.7 million dollars, not to mention the public safety gains. If the same positive results were found in the federal student aid program, it would be a cost savings of nearly $61 million dollars based on a 2009-2010 average undergraduate award of $9,100.