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.