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Tuition and fees can add up to well over $30,000 at some universities. Many parents hope their children can secure a scholarship so that they can further their education without exhausting the family’s savings.
With scholarship dollars often hard to come by, and parents anxious to get them, it’s no surprise that “scholarship fraud” is on the rise. In fact, people taken in by scholarship scams lose a total of $100 million annually, according to the college planning site FinAid.org. The good news, according to the California Society of CPAs (www.calcpa.org), is that there are steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim.
Generally, you should not have to pay an application fee to qualify for a college scholarship or an education loan. Sometimes parents are taken in by non-existent scholarships that require a fee to apply. Parents pay the fees, then later simply assume that their child did not qualify.
The Federal Trade Commission, which has studied scholarship scams, does advise that some legitimate companies may charge fees to search for scholarship information. If fees are required, find out in advance what they cover and when and if refunds are available. Get this information in writing before handing over any money, even a small amount.
Web sites such as www.FinAid.org and www.collegeparents.org offer information you can use to learn more about securing the education funds you need without falling victim to a scholarship scam. In addition, your local CPA can offer expert advice on the best ways to pay for those high college tuition payments. Whether you have young children and want to begin planning early or you are looking for ways to cover a teenager’s looming tuition costs, a CPA can help. Consult him or her with questions on any of your family’s financial issues.
To listen to podcasts with more financial tips, go to http://www.calcpa.org/Content/community/financialempowerment.aspx.