PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s time for many parents to apply for financial aid to pay for their children’s college tuition, but a state education agency is warning that it’s also a time when many can be hurt.
Like many parents, Greg Sciullo of Ross Township is looking for financial aid to help send his daughter to college.
But he’s learned the hard way that not all offers are legitimate.
“We’ve gotten hundreds of things in the mail from places that say, ‘Oh yeah, we’ll help you get aid, just fill out this thing, and send it in,’” Sciullo told KDKA money editor Jon Delano. “And we look through every one of them and they’re all scams.”
Sciullo was about to share personal financial information on what he thought was a secure government website called FAFSA — Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
Turns out he hit the wrong website.
“I went on to FAFSA.com and that is not the FAFSA website,” said Sciullo. “That is a website for a company that charges you money to fill out the FAFSA for you.”
“This is a population that a lot of scammers will prey upon,” noted Kimberly McCurdy, who counsels parents for PHEAA, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency. “You shouldn’t have to pay money to get money.”
McCurdy says it’s a common mistake.
Besides PHEAA, McCurdy says there are really two legitimate on-line sites to share financial data. The main one is FAFSA at http://www.FAFSA.ed.gov.
“The free application for financial aid is the ticket into the financial aid process,” added McCurdy.
All parents should fill this out — not just for loans — but also for scholarships where family income doesn’t matter.
And for some private schools, there’s also the College Board financial aid profile.
“Don’t do that unless the school specifically asks you to do that because there is a $28 fee to do that,” noted McCurdy.
“There are lots of scholarships available, and McCurdy recommends checking out to http://www.fastweb.com to find the legitimate ones.
- Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency
- More Advice from PHEAA (PDF)
- Free Application for Federal Student Assistance
- College Board CSS Financial Profile