COLLEGE scholarship warning

Wednesday, July 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

With high school just around the corner for many Tulsa teens, thoughts of college aren't far behind. Applying for college and finding the funds can be overwhelming, and there are groups that promise to help, for a fee. KOTV's Diane White takes a closer look at these groups and what you need to know - in a Consumer 6 alert.

If you're a parent of a high school student you may have received this letter - an invitation for a meeting this weekend - to this learn about college recruiting and financial aid. It's from College Partnership. Last year - it was called College Resource Management. Although the name has changed - it’s the same address- same phone number. A year ago, KOTV investigated this company, after one of our photographers received the letter. Sound from a hidden camera at last year's session, "Now students, I know mom and dad care a lot enough about you. That’s why they brought you here today, to make sure you have the best start in life which is a college education." As we said, they went - wearing a hidden camera.

KOTV Photographer Michael Woods: "You sat in there and they showed college videotapes - about 200 people were there." Then they met with a counselor. "When you went to your personal consultation, it was more of a hard sell." The company says it helps students set goals, fill out applications, and search for financial aid. Last year's prices: $995 for the first year, $300 for additional years. They offered payment plans with $89 down. "I wasn't willing to commit to even $89 today, and they wanted you to do it right then, and boy, he was very disappointed that we couldn't do it right then." Michael Woods' daughter, Audrey, "He was kind of mad at us because we couldn't commit right then." And he wouldn't let them take the contract home.

Gary Kennedy with the FTC: "I would be very leery of getting involved in any kind of company that wouldn't let you take the contract home." The Federal Trade Commission tracks companies that offer financial aid services. It says some are legitimate, but advises people to check it out handing over money. Kennedy, "You have to recognize - even the legitimate companies - all they're doing is compiling information that you could get yourself."

Last year, KOTV asked College Resource Management to respond, the company wouldn't talk on camera. Vice President Timothy White told us by phone: "We can provide a lot more than they can provide. We have proprietary software worth five million dollars. I'd put it up against 5,000 counselors any day." But high school counselors say they can help students find money for college.

Owasso School counselor Danny O'Shea: "Anything they have, you can get free. We have it here. Colleges will help you with it, public library; any of those things is free. You don't have to pay to get a scholarship." Instead - students can use that money for college. College Partnership entered into an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission last month. It prohibits the company from misrepresentating its ability to find money for students, and making guarantees in its presentations. The company also had to pay the FTC $40,000.

The Better Business Bureau says it has received many complaints from customers who claim they've had trouble getting refunds, many were resolved, but some were not.