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High school students looking to file for the government’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) have been paying $79.99 to file with Student Financial Aid Services, Inc., reports CBS Boston WBZ-TV’s Kathy Curran.There’s only one problem: Student Financial Aid Services is not affiliated with FAFSA (Fafsa.gov). Its similar domain name (Fafsa.com) led some students to believe otherwise.
A couple years ago, this was a bigger problem, says Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Finaid.org. Fafsa.com frequently turned up on Google searches and to this day, its advertisement appears near the top of many search lists.
But since the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, financial aid preparation sites have had to disclose they are not affiliated with FAFSA. They have also had to direct students to the correct site and disclose that Fafsa.gov is free. Thankfully, Student Financial Aid Services does all of this.
Still, there may be cause for confusion, as Kantrowitz says there are many financial aid services similar to Fafsa.com. Some are cheaper, and others are more expensive, but none of them are necessary.
“They don’t really save you all that much money,” Kantrowitz says. “It’s more of a handholding service, reassuring you that you’re doing everything right.”
Here are three resources Kantrowitz recommends using instead:
1. Federal Student Aid Information centre – This toll-free line (1-800-4-FED-AID [1-800-433-3243]) answers any and all questions pertaining to the FAFSA.
2. College Goal Sunday – Volunteers offer free on-site professional assistance for students needing help with their application.
3. Finaid.org – This site features faqs and links to resources to help streamline the application process.
For its part, a FAFSA.com representative said the site offers free services for students from low-income families and has directed thousands of students to the government’s website.