Students Warned About Site That Charges For Financial Aid Application

By Kathy Curran, WBZ-TV

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.

Comments

One Comment

  1. MFallon says:

    Student Financial Aid Services also prepares federal student aid applications at no charge for many students from low-income households and the homepage of its website directs students to other free professional FAFSA preparation events and services. Many students prefer professional FAFSA preparation help because of the form’s complexity. The company also offers its services in multiple languages such as Spanish and many Asian languages to help families whose first language is not English. Mary Fallon, spokesperson for Student Financial Aid Services

  2. Marykay Klara says:

    The word FAFSA was incorrectly spelled in this article. It stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid, the first initial of each word.

  3. edvisors says:

    For free tips and advice on completing the FAFSA, you can use http://www.fafsa.ed.gov or http://www.fafsaonline.com/ – both are open to all students and provide detailed advice on a complicated process.

    In defense of FAFSA.com. they do have a link to free services on their home page and a ton of free content.

  4. GHefty says:

    Please ask for a refund if you inadvertantly use this service. Last year I had a mother of three college age students file for all of her children using this site. When she visited our financial aid office and mentioned the high cost of filing the FAFSA, we told her it should have been free and gave her the fafsa.gov address that she should have used. We also suggested that she contact the other organization and request a refund, which she later told us was granted.

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