Charging a service fee for financial aid is not a scam, but proceed at your own risk. Many Fullerton College students seeking financial aid will begin their collegiate careers with the unenviable task of filling out a plethora of forms. Applying for financial aid can be a cumbersome process at best. At it’s worst, students spend countless hours spinning there wheels with their keyboard at the fore typing their name, date if birth and marital status repeatedly.
The most common dilemma students face when seeking financial aid is whether to use a service based company like fafsa.com, which charges a service fee or to use fafsa.edu.gov, the U.S. Department of Education’s site, which is free.
FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Fafsa.com offers to complete your FAFSA for you in as little as 20 minutes. It seems pretty clear cut, but navigating and understanding the difference between the sites can be confusing for some.
To assist students, FC Financial Aid Office offers several resources. Their website, financialaid.fullcoll.edu has online financial aid workshops and holds physical workshops on campus on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s to help students navigate through the red tape. Their goal is to help educate those seeking financial, but maintain a neutral stance on which sites to use. When asked about whether the service based sites were scams, FC’s Financial Aid Director Greg Ryan says “It’s all legitimate, but do you really want to.” His statement begs the questions, what is your time worth to you and why would you pay for something that is offered to you for free.
The FAFSA site has a clear cut warning to all seeking financial aid and scholarships. The warning page is http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/scams. On this page there are warnings and links such as, “Don’t Pay for Help to Find Money for College” and “Don’t Pay for the FAFSA.”
The subject of scholarships is a bit trickier to navigate, because most of all of the scholarships are separate of the FAFSA site. If a site ever asks for a service fee up front, in order to provide a scholarship at a later date, steer clear of this type of scholarship or service. There are viable scholarships searchable through the government site. Another way to insure safety, is to utilize scholarships that FC professors and faculty designate or make available.
It is clear that some students have found it difficult to navigate through the red tape of financial aid and scholarships. Some students have spent several hours following the instructions of service based sites, only to find out that on the final page, they must offer their bank account or credit card to “get started”.
FC student Tiffany Morris, a sociology major, was taken back by the site Fafsa.com, amongst others. She stated “I thought that I was on the right track, only to find out that I was going to have to start all over again with the government site.” Morris continues to tell, “The whole time I was offering my personal information up to god knows how many sites, I was under the impression that I was in the right place.”
The truth is, Morris caught herself in time to correct the process. Unfortunately, some do not catch themselves before entering into a contract with a needless service provider. She says “With help from a friend and the government site, I spent an extra 20 minutes and applied properly.” All she needed to do, and anybody needs to do is to have your previous years tax information and proceed to the free site.
Some FC students find it a bit easier, especially if they already have a friend or relative who has gone through the process. Johnny Estrada found it simple enough because in his case he says, “My cousin guided me through it and it only took me about thirty minutes and I was done.”
It might take a few minutes longer to research the topic, but it is in every student’s best interest to spend the extra time to use the government site.