Warning for parents filling out those college application forms

Around the country, parents of college students have been receiving letters urging them to pay $49 to apply for financial aid.

The problem, however, is that these letters have been looking like they come straight from a college, when actually, um, not so much.

The organization sending them is called College Financial Advisory. I haven't been able to find their web site on Google, but you can find College Financial Advisory as the subject of several discussion forums, where students and parents are basically asking: Are these guys for real?

Even if they are a reputable group, they're charging money "for information available online for free," according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The article continues:

"Parents who received the mailings from College Financial Advisory in recent weeks might be fooled by its formal appearance into thinking the fee is mandatory. The letter has a government-like seal, personal information about where the student attends school, and warns of a March 31 deadline to fill out an aid profile."

The director of financial aid for the University of Milwaukee-Madison was interviewed, saying, "Scam seems to be right word."

But it's not just going on in Milwaukee. Parents of students at Virginia Tech received similar letters, although apparently the going price on these forms is $48.

Colorado State University put a warning about College Financial Advisory at the bottom of their student financial services web site, saying that parents have been receiving the letters in the area, too. Wesleyan University has a warning, too. And so has Massaoit Community College in Brockton, Massachusetts.

So if you receive one of those letters in the mail, save your money. The best college financial advice seems to be to stay far away from College Financial Advisory.

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