CHICAGO, IL – Millions of people depend on grants and scholarships to pay for college. Navigating the process of applying for financial aid can be confusing and some companies claim they can help, but only end up charging unnecessary fees. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois (BBB) recommends doing your research before paying a company to find financial aid for college.
“Times are tough, money is tight, and families are desperate to find scholarships,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “While some companies are trying to take advantage of struggling families looking for funding, the good news is that all of the information you need is already available for free.”
Every year, the BBB receives complaints from individuals who paid money upfront to a company that promised to find scholarships and grants for their child but ultimately didn’t deliver. In the past twelve months alone, there have been 545 consumer inquiries to the BBB about companies in the “Scholarships & Financial Aid” category.
The BBB recommends listening for the following red flags when receiving a sales pitch from a financial-aid finder:
- “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.” In reality no one can guarantee they will get you a grant or scholarship. The refund guarantee offers usually have many conditions or strings attached making it is almost impossible for consumers to get their money back.
- “You cannot get this information anywhere else.” Scholarship information is widely available in libraries, financial aid offices and very conveniently on the internet.
- “You have been selected by a national foundation to receive a scholarship.” If you have not entered a competition sponsored by the foundation, this claim is highly unlikely.
- “May I have your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship?” This is never a requirement for a legitimate scholarship offer.
- “The scholarship will cost some money.” Legitimate scholarship offers never require payment of any kind.