5 On Your Side

Some Scholarship 'Offers' Can Come At Cost

Posted November 8, 2004 3:10 a.m. EST

— College can cost a fortune. When you have a large family, paying for college for is even tougher.

So when you get a letter offering the possibility of thousands of dollars in scholarship money, it can be tempting.

Jack Simpson's seventh child, Anthony, is a senior at Campbell University. When a letter offering as much as $7,500 in scholarship money arrived in the mail, it got Anthony's attention.

"That'd be really nice," Anthony Simpson said. "I mean, I'd take five bucks off my tuition."

A closer look at the letter raised questions. It stated Anthony can "apply" for scholarships for a $25 "processing fee." It also said he "may receive up to $7,500" from "programs in our files."

"I stopped it. I'm the one that said make her do a little leg work to do the phone call. And my wife picked up the phone and called the Better Business Bureau," Jack Simpson said.

According to the Better Business Bureau, there is nothing illegal about most of the companies that offer scholarship finding services.

The important thing to know is the information that most of these companies provide is available for free to anyone willing to take the time to research it.

The owner of the company that sent Simpson the letter said he charges the $25 fee to "set up appointments" with scholarship providers. Even though it may not sound like a lot of money, families like the Simpsons know every dollar adds up.

High school guidance counselors or college financial aid offices can provide resources to find scholarships and that information is free.

Although services that charge for the scholarship lists are legal, you should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship.