By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
Central Texas College warned its students Friday of firms offering financial aid assistance for a fee.
The move came after an unknown number of students received letters from San Diego, Calif.-based College Financial Advisory, CTC spokesperson Bruce Vasbinder said. The company offered financial aid services for $59.
At least four students brought their letters to the school's financial aid office, wondering what to do with them, he said.
While programs that promise to help students find financial aid, grant and scholarship opportunities can be legitimate, a statement from the school said, they charge for what is already offered for free through on-campus financial aid offices at CTC and all other colleges and universities.
Such off-campus services are not illegal, Better Business Bureau regional director Richard Kitterman said, but they can be unnecessary.
"You absolutely don't have to pay for these services that are offered free."
The company is not accredited by the bureau, which awarded it a "C" rating for sales and advertising issues, among other problems.
College Financial Advisory vice president Faye Ara said Friday that most of the bureau's 68 documented complaints were filed by clients who never tried to resolve them with her company first, and that it is willing to work with dissatisfied parties.
The company's services aren't superfluous, she said, and fill a void between need- and merit-based financial assistance services. Schools tend to focus on need-based assistance, she said, her company is essentially an aggregator of merit-based grant and scholarship opportunities that can save students and parents hours of research.
Representatives from Texas A&M University-Central Texas and the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor were unaware of any such solicitations of their schools' students Friday.
This is CTC's second round of such warnings in three months.
The school alerted students in January of financial aid assistance firm scams after an apparently fraudulent overseas company charged a student $150 for services never rendered.
At the time, CTC's financial aid adviser, Annabelle Smith, compared paying for financial aid services to throwing money away.
"It is our job to provide these services for free," shes said, "so we do not have to use other companies soliciting payments."
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.