One of Pennsylvania's financial aid providers is reminding college students they should never pay for submitting their applications - and if someone is asking them to pay a fee, it's likely a scam.
The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is a provider of student financial aid services. That includes the Pennsylvania State Grant, which provides assistance based on financial need for students attending Pennsylvania schools for higher education.
The deadline to apply for those state grants is Aug. 1, which could be the reason for an uptick in telephone scams in the past few weeks, said PHEAA spokesman Keith New.
In many cases, those callers have claimed to be a PHEAA representative and offered to submit the grant applications on behalf of a student - for a fee. "That's clearly a scam," New said, adding the organization is founded on providing a public service, not on squeezing extra dollars out of families in need.
Free service: Similar scams claiming to be PHEAA will come on postcards or in emails, New said, and offer paid seminars about the application process, some even going so far as to promise a certain amount of financial aid.
"There's never a situation where someone who needs those dollars should be paying for advice or paying for application services," New said.
And what's more, no amount of aid can be guaranteed until the organization processes the application, New said. Aid dollars are distributed based on need, not who files the application.
New said the scams are especially effective for families who aren't familiar with the application process and have "trepidation" about applying for the aid.
For those people, New suggests reading about the process on pheaa.org, which gives step-by-step directions and has numerous pop-up boxes that describe the necessary information.
If people get stuck and need extra help, New said other resources are available through high school guidance offices or through financial aid offices of local colleges and trade schools.
PHEAA also holds free sessions throughout the year about the process, often hosted by local schools.
To learn more about the state grants and the application process, visit pheaa.org and click on the "State Grant Program" link.
- Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.