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Every week, join Sydney Waters as she helps you navigate life as a smart consumer. You'll cover everything in avoiding the latest scams, including phishing emails, medical equipment fraud, understanding layaway, hiring a reputable tax preparer, and even digital spring cleaning. Add to your toolbox and flip through your Consumer Handbook Thursdays during NPR’s Morning Edition at 6:42 a.m. and 8:42 a.m., only on KRCU.

Consumer Handbook: Finding Real College Scholarships And Avoiding Financial Aid Scams

Matt Madd/Flickr, License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

A recent College Board survey revealed that one year of college education can cost more than $45,000. With rates for higher education continuing to rise, high school students and their families often scramble to manage the financial responsibility.

Better Business Bureau says students and their families should be wary of websites, seminars, or other schemes that promise to find scholarships, grants, or financial aid packages for a fee. Fraudulent companies advertising financial aid search services may promise a money-back guarantee if students are unable to secure grants or scholarships, but they also set so many conditions that it’s almost impossible to get a refund.

Legitimate companies can help students find aid, but they don’t guarantee results. However, parents and students usually can find the same awards and others on their own by searching online or going to the library.

BBB advises students to take their time. Don’t be rushed into paying for help at a seminar. Ask about fees associated with a professional financial aid search and find out if the company provides refunds. Get the information in writing, but realize the dishonest companies may refuse to provide refunds despite standard policies. Beware of letters or emails saying you’ve been selected to receive a scholarship for a contest you never entered, and investigate any company that you consider using to help find aid.

If you ever suspect a company of running a scam, visit BBB’s Scam Tracker and make a report.


Cape Girardeau native Whitney Quick is the former Regional Director of Better Business Bureau in Cape Girardeau, MO. She joined the Cape Chamber as Vice President of Programs and Leadership Development in May 2023. Quick is a graduate of Cape Girardeau Central High School and Southeast Missouri University where she majored in public relations.