CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – Many parents of college students are working on securing financial aid right now. Experts say getting the money you need is easy to find for free.

Centennial resident Barbara Raimondo got a letter in the mail that came with an application for college money. The letter came from a California company called Student Financial Resource Center.

“I thought it was very official,” Raimondo told CBS4.

She started filling out the form and then noticed at the very end it requests a processing fee of $59.

“That’s when I called you (4 On Your Side), to let your viewers know beware, they’re out there,” Raimondo said.

Student Financial Resource Center is a reputable company with an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. They offer a service for the $59 that includes:

— Explanations of financial aid programs

— Strategies on how to fill out federal aid forms

— Debunking of financial aid myths and misconceptions

— Warnings about scams

— Guidelines for writing essays

— Application checklists

— An extensive list of financial resources

RELATED: Student Financial Resource Center Complete Response to 4 On Your Side Inquiry.

“I have been told when we went to our first meeting at the high school last year, they said, ’Don’t ever send money to get money,’ ” Raimondo said.

Experts say students and their parents can find everything they need in terms of financial aid for free.

“We tend to tell students they should never pay for any type of service for looking for any type of financial assistance, be it financial aid or scholarships,” said Cindy Hejl, Director of Financial Aid at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Hejl reports a 20 percent increase in financial aid applications at Metro Sate during the last several years. The market is competitive as the economy remains tight.

“There’s no guarantee that these companies are not going to find anything more that the student can find by just spending a couple of hours to do the research themselves,” Hejl explained.

To file for financial aid you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The program is managed by the U.S. Department of Education and provides information about grants, student loans and scholarships.

The Student Financial Resource Center says that its program can save students time, provides a specific, convenient guidebook package, protects students from SPAM emails and superfluous advertisements, and doesn’t sell the student’s name, email or home addresses to outside vendors.

If you are interested in using a financial aid service, you should take precautions:

— Ask for names of 3 or 4 local families who have used the service recently.

— Find out about the refund policy.

— Read the fine print.

RELATED: More Reports By 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks

– Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith

  1. mrsjaxson says:

    In addition to fafsa, I would also recommend as many scholarships as you can find. Here is a good starting point for students: http://studentloansforcollege.org/studentloans/10-easy-scholarships-for-college/
    however, you will have to do your research, but scholarship money is worth it!

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