Foreign students blamed for steep rise in student fraud

There has been a tenfold increase in the number of students using a false alternative address while living at home to claim for a higher rate of living costs, according to figures released by the ministry of higher education and science, and more than three-quarters of those caught cheating were international students.

The data was released in response to questions in parliament about how many students were engaging in fraud by reporting fictitious addresses to claim student financing.

When a student is living at home, the rate of support is fixed at DKK956 (US$160) per month for covering living costs, while those who have taken up an address outside their parents’ home are eligible for DKK6,090 (US$1,000) per month.

In 2015 only six students were identified as having cheated with regard to the address provided; in 2016 this increased to 54, and for the first 10 months of 2017 the number was 66. Of the 66 persons in 2017, 50 were either immigrants or children of immigrants, while 16 were Danish citizens, the ministry indicated.

“We expect a rising number of such misreporting of addresses in coming years since we now are intensifying the investigations,” Peter Nielsen, office manager of the Danish Agency for Institutions and Educational Grants, told Berlingske, the Danish daily newspaper.

Nielsen said that one way to identify such fraud is through the local police examining residence statistics. In one example they found out that nine people reported having the same address, which was for a one-room apartment.

“If the fraud has gone on for several years the total amount might exceed DKK100,000 (€13,400) and we are asking for repayment in such cases,” Nielsen said.

Ahmad Mahmoud, a Danish author of Palestinian origin, who grew up in Askerød in Hundinge where there is a high concentration of non-Western immigrants, told Berlingske that such misuse of Danish student funding (SU) is common in such areas.

Call for action

Representatives of several political parties told Berlingske that the SU fraud was “un-Danish” and a sign of another economic culture among certain segments of Danish youths.

Social Democratic Party spokesman for education Christian Rabjerg Madsen said that “non-Western students are grossly overrepresented” in the data compared to ethnic Danes, and the figures may be used in future debates about the “development of a parallel society” when the government publishes its views on this in coming months.

The Danish People’s Party said in a Facebook statement that controls should be “sharpened”. Their spokesman for education Jens Henrik Thulesen Dahl called for punishment that would serve as a “stiff warning”.

'Economic pressure’

Monika Skadborg of the National Union of Students in Denmark told University World News that they are very worried about information about a few individuals being used to direct suspicion against entire segments of the student population numbering thousands of students.

“We rather think that one seriously should investigate why such fraud is taking place by some student groups that on average are under more economic pressure than others,” Skadborg said.