Get Gephardt: Pricey Financial Aid Forms
May 25, 2006
Parents and students pay for financial aid forms the government provides free of charge.
SALT LAKE CITY - Imagine spending your hard-earned money to buy something you can get for free. It happened to a Westminster College student just trying to get scholarship money. Time to “Get Gephardt”.
There are hundreds of companies across the country making big promises - “pay us a fee and we guarantee college scholarships”. Let's see if you get what you pay for.
When Natalie Nuttall prepared to enroll at Westminster College, she got a call from the College Funding Center promising to get her the scholarship money she needs. Natalie paid their $1150 fee for a plan that "guarantees 100 percent funding for my financial aid package".
"Didn't work out at all," said Natalie.
It turns out Natalie paid for what the government calls the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Instead of getting her any actual money, College Funding Center sent Natalie paperwork so she could apply for the scholarships -- paperwork that is free.
"Just pretty much threw $1100 away," said Natalie.
Craig Green, Director of Financial Aid at Westminster College said "Families and students in some cases are paying those kinds of fees that they simply don't have to."
Green says companies like College Funding Center prey on students and parents nervous about tackling the financial aid process themselves.
"They think they're getting a professional who has secrets to the formula and has access to scholarships that they don't have.”
Green says just visit a financial aid office at any college or university in the country. They'll help you even if you're not planning to attend that school.
You know what? The company Natalie paid didn't do anything illegal -- charging her for something she could have gotten for free. If you're willing to pay, companies can take money for it.
There are several free national scholarship search programs online. Links to those sites are listed below. By the way, the College Funding Center Natalie paid - nowhere to be found today.