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Students Warned About Site That Charges For Financial Aid Application

By Kathy Curran, WBZ-TV
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(Photo credit JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo credit JAY DIRECTO/AFP/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) – Students applying for financial aid don’t have to spend a dime, all they have to do is log onto the government website FAFSA.GOV for a free application for federal student aid, but a website with a very similar name is causing some controversy.

“The amount of money they’re charging for something that’s free is the biggest concern,” says Elsa Martinez.

Some students believe the website FAFSA.COM is where they need to apply, but there you have to pay $79.99. Elsa Martinez is a financial advisor for the non-profit ACCESS that helps students navigate the financial challenges of college.

WBZ-TV’s Kathy Curran reports

“The reason why the federal government makes it free is because most of our students don’t have the funds to pay,” says Martinez.

“Financial aid is very important to me without it I couldn’t go to college,” says Louidor Michel.

Michel, a senior at English High in Boston got a letter from FAFSA.COM and thought he needed to shell out money to apply for aid. Michel said, “I think that’s crazy, eighty bucks is a lot of money.”

Another student at English used FAFSA.COM but her application never made it to the federal government. By the time she realized there was a problem, she missed the deadline and missed out on critical funding. Martinez said, “The type of people they’re hurting don’t have a lot of income to work on.”

The website states it’s not affiliated with the US Department of Education and provides a link to the free application site. The company says it provides a useful preparation service and counseling for a nominal fee. With FAFSA.COM comes a service for a fee. With FAFSA.GOV you do the work but the application is free.

The non-profit ACCESS provides free counseling and services for the financial aid process. They have a walk-in center in Boston. For more information go to their website: www.accessedu.org.

A spokesperson for the company tells us they’re transparent about its fees and services and always informs students of their options. They say they’re proud of the service they provide.

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