Officials for a state-sponsored financial aid event underwritten by student lenders prevent interns of college planning firm from exercising their rights of free speech by leaf-letting event attendees about alternatives to high-fee, high-rate student loans.
Weston, FL -- (ReleaseWire) -- 02/27/2008 -- Officials at “Countdown to College,” a state-sponsored financial aid event, muzzled a local college planning firm that attempted to shed light on the sponsors behind the event.
This weekend, the state of Florida featured the “Countdown," a series of financial aid form assistance workshops ostensibly designed to help parents of college-bound teens fill out the Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA). Unbeknownst to the attendees, however, the events were underwritten by student loan companies.
When student interns hired by http://CollegePlanningAdvice.com, a Weston-based college planning firm, showed up at the event to distribute information urging families to consider other sources of college funding – including free, need-based grants and scholarships - they were met by angry, outraged organizers. Event officials moved swiftly to intimidate the teenage interns with threats of calling the police, tearing up their flyers and banning them from the parking lot.
“This event was held in a public forum. These cowardly officials shamelessly violated the interns’ rights to free speech under the 1st amendment!” said Andrew Lockwood, J.D., co-owner of http://CollegePlanningAdvice.com. ”But the true victims were the families who were coerced into applying for high fee, high debt student loans when unknown alternatives were available.”
Lockwood and Peter Ratzan, M.B.A. co-owners of CollegePlanningAdvice.com, were shocked once they learned that event which was sponsored by USA Funds -- a student loan guarantor—and Citicorp - a student lender - would steer cash-strapped and uninformed families to risky, high cost and unsubsidized private student loans without offering an alternative solution to their college funding crisis.
"There are better, even free ways to pay for college, if you know the "rules of the game" about how federal grants are given, and to whom. There's more than 80 Billion dollars of need-based aid available through the financial aid system,” said Razan. “Andy and I were shocked to learn that we would not be allowed to present that information to the families at the Countdown. Wouldn’t you think that this would be information that they’d want to know?”
“We just wanted to make sure that parents found out that there was a legitimate alternative to burdening their children with deceptive, low "teaser" rate payments that, after they adjust, create late payments, non-payments, defaults and ruin your student's credit rating for the indeterminate future" said Lockwood.
“Unfortunately, here’s what happened instead,” said Ratzan: "The parents filled out their FAFSA. Then, they pushed a button and learned what their Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is. This is a critical number - it’s the dollar amount that parents are expected to pay according to the FAFSA."
"For most parents, the EFC is not pretty,” said Lockwood. “The EFC is usually several thousand dollars per year, per child. Parents freak out. Then, at the ‘Countdown,’ vulnerable parents rushed to apply for high fee, high rate student loans, solely because they did not see any alternative to incurring this debt! For these student lenders, signing borrowers was like shooting fish in a barrel, but with a machine gun!” said Lockwood.
“The key to avoiding being pigeon-holed like this is to start the college planning process by sophomore or junior year. This is one area where procrastination can cost you literally thousands of dollars of lost aid and high interest payments,” said Ratzan.
Lockwood and Ratzan offer free college planning workshops that encourage parents to reduce or flat-out eliminate high fee, high interest rate debt. Details are available at:
Lockwood and Ratzan will co-host “The College Planning Power Hour” radio show, Sundays, 10:00-11:00 AM on ESPN Radio AM 1400, starting March 2, 2008. Their firm, http://CollegePlanningAdvice.com is located in Weston, Florida and helps parents “Pay for College Without Going Broke.”
For more information and/or an entertaining interview, please contact Andrew Lockwood, J.D. at 954.659.1234 or firstname.lastname@example.org