I recently read yet another article about businesses that advertise free seminars to learn about financial aid that actually turn out to be sales pitches for their paid services. These businesses have been around for many years and I have written about them before. No legitimate group is going to give you a high pressure sales pitch so if you are feeling pressured, just get up and leave the presentation.
But, what I really wanted to comment about was the statement of the college financial aid official quoted in the article. The gist of the comment was that if you want free advice on financial aid you should just contact the financial aid office at any college. Honestly, I think that this comment is just as misleading with the potential to harm students as the financial aid firm charging thousands to complete a FAFSA.
Most financial aid people are good people who try to provide as much financial aid for each student attending their college as they have available resources. But colleges are businesses and they can not afford to give more financial aid than they have. And most colleges, including the one where the comment came from, practice gapping in their financial aid. This means that they do not fund all of the student’s need as determined by the FAFSA. Do they advertise that fact in their dealings with students? Almost never.
To say that students should rely on free advice from colleges whose main interest is to preserve as much money by not giving complete financial aid funding out is a disservice to the student.
So what is the student to do to learn about the complicated world of college financial aid? The first step is to learn about the basics of college financial aid. This is a free article and my only concern in making this information available is to help people understand financial aid.
Want more detailed information? You want to read “Paying for College Without Going Broke” by Kalman Chany. This book from the Princeton Review is a fabulous resource for detailed information on both the financial aid process and the best way to complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile. The book sells for about $20 although it is available at many public libraries.
Don’t be pressured into buying a service you don’t need. But also don’t be misled into thinking that a college financial aid office is only concerned about you.