Pay to Stay Fraud Scheme

By: Tonya Mead, CFE, PI, MBA, MA Educational Psychology

In England, a pay to stay scheme is a social housing program that controls rent for lower wage earners. In the US however, it is a fraud scam and occurs when owners of schools and universities entice hundreds of foreign nationals to obtain fraudulent immigration documents allowing them to remain in the US as students. Very rarely do the victims, if ever, attend classes [see the University of Northern New Jersey and Prodee University (among others)].

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The measures criminals undertook to carryout their scheme involved: creating bogus student records and preparing fake academic transcripts. In some instances, the foreign students had no intention of attending the schools and often lived outside of the state boundaries where the schools were located. And yet, these elaborate schemes have often gone undetected by the US government, or rationalized as too small fry to enforce and prosecute.

As mentioned in my book,  the United States Government Accountability Office [1] concluded that the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) that authorizes 850,000 foreign students to enroll in  US schools  “does not evaluate program data on prior and suspected instances of school fraud and noncompliance” [page 14].

It appears the tide may be changing.


  1. “Student and Exchange Visitor Program: DHS Needs to Take Actions to Strengthen Monitoring of Schools,” Report # GAO-12-895T. Washington, DC. 24 July, 2012.

Tonya J. Mead, CFE, PI, MBA, MA, Certified K-12 Administrator and School Psychologist is author of Fraud in Education: Beyond the Wrong Answer and president of Shared Knowledge, LLC