Avoiding Financial Aid Scams – A Message from Student Financial Services

Kari Brayden
Kari Brayden, Medical Student Financial Services Coordinator

Most medical students at the University of Vermont College of Medicine rely on various financial aid programs to make their medical degree a reality. “Financial aid” encompasses many programs – grants, scholarships, and education loans.  Currently, nationwide student debt collectively totals over one trillion dollars, so it’s no secret there is a lot of funding for higher education! Scams involving financial aid are therefore a reality. Learn how to protect yourself with some of these quick tips from Student Financial Services (SFS):

Never pay for applications

The main step in applying for financial aid is the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  Of course, the FAFSA isn’t the only application out there. Reputable scholarship organizations and state agencies have their own application process for grants and awards, which is nothing to be wary of – as long as they, too, offer free applications. Note that some companies do offer paid services for financial aid accessibility. These individuals are not always fraudulent, but often they fail to deliver what they promise (for example, no one can guarantee you’ll win a certain scholarship!).

Verify any company that contacts you

If you borrow a federal education loan, your assigned U.S. Department of Education “Servicer” will reach out to you within a few months of the loan originating, notifying you of your balance and other important account information. Unfamiliar companies claiming you owe them can be nerve wracking – verify they are a legitimate U.S. Department of Education Servicer by looking them up on the Federal Student Aid website.  If the Servicer isn’t listed, contact UVM SFS for information.

Don’t always trust commercials or other marketing

The U.S. Department of Education Student Aid program rarely, if ever, advertises on television. Private companies offering “loan consolidation” and “loan relief” to new graduates heavily advertise with commercials. Similarly, mass marketing emails commonly outline loan “forgiveness.” These advertisements are usually untrustworthy.  To get the real scoop on repayment programs (i.e. Public Service Loan Forgiveness), contact your Servicer/Federal Student Aid or UVM SFS.

Be proactive if you think you’re a victim

Student Aid, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, offers similar advice about protecting your money and identity; visit the “Avoiding Scams” section of the Federal Student Aid website for more preventative tips as well as instructions for fraud reporting (if you believe you’ve been a victim or are at risk).

When in doubt, talk to Student Financial Services

UVM Student Financial Services is here to help navigate the confusing world of financial aid and loan repayment. Every question you have is a good one. We can be contacted at comfao@uvm.edu or (802) 656-9203.

The Medical Student Financial Services Coordinator is located within the Office of Medical Student Education on the first floor of the Courtyard at Given. Appointments are highly encouraged, but drop-ins welcome during OMSE business hours (M-F, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.).

On Wednesday, November 4, Kari is the special guest for the monthly Dining with the Deans noontime event. 

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