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San Diego parents of high school students began receiving mailings from Arlington, Texas-based “College Admissions Assistance” in recent weeks and, judging by the letter’s formal appearance, could have been mistaken in believing the mail was from their child’s school district.

The letter, offering college admissions and financial-aid assistance, contains personal information about where the student attends school and warns that “interview dates and appointment times are limited” and “[Your child’s] future is too important not to attend.”

The grandmother of Melissa Barba in Imperial Beach received the letter and the family attended a seminar this past Saturday, September 19, at the Doubletree Hotel in Mission Valley.

“We sat for three hours listening to their spiel,” said an exasperated Stella Barba, “Then, at the end, they said we had to pay $1995. I showed the letter to the lady in charge and said, ‘Where does it say we need money? The whole reason we’re here is because we don’t have any money.’ That’s when they tried to offer me a weekly payment option. ‘You don’t get it,’ I told her. ‘We’re not paying anything. You try to make it sound like we have no choices. We have plenty of choices.’ That’s when I looked around the room; it was filled with 200 people most like me, a minority! They thought we were too stupid to see it for what it was.”

I tried contacting Brenda Watkins, director of College Admissions Assistance Student Services but couldn’t get past the corporate offices’ voice mail, and my call has not been returned.

The Federal Trade Commission website states many students and their families are falling prey to scholarship scams and cautions parents and students to look for tell-tale lines: "The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back"; "You can't get this information anywhere else"; "I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship"; "We'll do all the work"; "The scholarship will cost some money."

The Better Business Bureau has received 14 complaints about College Admissions Assistance in the past 12 months and has given the company a rating of C minus.

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Comments

PistolPete Sept. 24, 2009 @ 2:05 p.m.

Although I applaud Stella Barba for sticking to her guns and telling them to f*** off,I have to question her intelligence in even going to something like this. The Doubltree Hotel would've been my first red flag. The seminar would've been my second and three hours would've been my third and last.

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David Dodd Sept. 24, 2009 @ 2:13 p.m.

"The Better Business Bureau has received 14 complaints about College Admissions Assistance in the past 12 months and has given the company a rating of C minus."

Where do we go to file a complaint against the BBB?

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PistolPete Sept. 24, 2009 @ 2:25 p.m.

LMAO! So very true,refried. I was thinking the along the same lines when I read that.

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whyigotahaveid Sept. 25, 2009 @ 11:07 a.m.

sounds like the TEAM meeting i went to a few weeks ago at the wavehouse. i signed up I THOUGHT for the Chrones/colitus walkathon. it was to be held in las vegas (?)
well the TEAM leaders wanted us to sign a contract , give them credit card number , social security number, drivers license. and we had a fund raising TARGET of like $3800 EACH ! and if we met it we get travel n lodging to n from las vegas . if we didnt reach our GOAL of $3800 , THEY HELD US RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DIFFERENCE !
to cover THIER expenses . i walked out before they even started by reading the contract ahead as we waited . they even wanted a F@#$%N deposit. what a SCAM

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whyigotahaveid Sept. 25, 2009 @ 11:08 a.m.

and what a shame , i really had my heart set on contributing to a worthy cause.

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thinkfirst Nov. 3, 2009 @ 7:52 a.m.

Food for thought: 1st, if you have a child in high school; ask him/her when was the last time they spoke with their high school guidance counselor? Has that counselor created a schedule for your child, &, more importantly, followed up with your child when important deadlines approach? Likely not. The reason; most schools are overcrowded & under funded and the result is that guidance counselors are carrying a caseload up to 800 students at times. And, these are the individuals supposedly entrusted to guide our sons and daughters. NO DISRESPECT to the counselors, contrarily, I have plenty of respect for them. I believe they have one of the toughest jobs. I can tell you personally as a former director of a Youth Development Program that most students receive little to no guidance either in school or at home. You might ask, "well why would the company charge a fee for their service?" Because it is a business, just like Test Prep companies such as Kaplan and Princeton Review. The company is stepping in to provide a service where the schools (sometimes families) are failing the students. Think of it this way, why do individuals & businesses pay cpa's to prepare their taxes? Can’t those same folks prepare their taxes on their own? I'm sure the answer is obvious; (1) most people don't have the time to sit down and read through the volumes of tax documents, and (2) most individuals are not as knowledgeable about the tax code as CPA's & will likely leave some money on the table if they go it alone. I would think the same principles apply here. How many of us really have the time & know where to research merit based opportunities let alone get through the FAFSA application which can seem at times more cumbersome than filling out your own tax return. The program is likely designed to fill the void of where our students are falling through the cracks. Another exercise, ask an average high school student what they want to become; you will likely hear answers like "I want to work in CSI". Why, because that is what they see on t.v. and this is what they are basing their futures upon. Or, ask them what school they want to attend and why, and they will likely say North Carolina, USC, etc. b/c they base their decisions on what they see on t.v. (sports) because that is all they are exposed to. In closing, is the way the company goes about asking for the fee, somewhat questionable? Arguably yes, however, if they posted the fee up front, how many parents do you think would attend the workshop? Not too many. However, these are the same parents and families that need the assistance the most. I believe once you here the presentation about what you need to know as a parent or as a student, & what the company does to assit families, you will have a greater appreciation for the program itself. Do your homework first, find out what resources are available to you both for free & at a fee, then attend the workshop, and compare.

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leisltm July 20, 2010 @ 5:56 p.m.

They've branched out- my 11 year old caucasian daughter just got one and we live in oregon.

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