Duke Cheston provides this troubling look at the Pell Grant program.

Not long ago at a North Carolina community college, there always seemed to be fewer cars in the parking lot the week after Pell grant checks were sent out. And one instructor noticed that some students weren’t taking the final in her class. Why? They hadn’t studied and knew they were going to fail—but they had received their checks.

Such “students” are called Pell runners. They have figured out how to profit from a federal program meant to make higher education more affordable, and their fraud actually drives up tuition for honest students. While times have changed at the school mentioned above, fraud continues at many.

The Pell Grant Program, intended to help lower-income students afford college, began in 1972. In 2003, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) estimated that Pell grant fraud accounted for about $300 million in grants per year—about 3 percent of total money handed out.