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Call it the $3 billion dollar question: Why, asks Daniel J. Cassidy, does that much financial aid from the private sector go unclaimed every year?

Mr. Cassidy, the president of the Santa Rosa, Calif.-based National Scholarship Research Service, recently published the fifth edition of his handbook for students and families, The Scholarship Book. The book offers information on more than 1,200 college scholarships from the private sector, with amounts ranging from $100 to $20,000.

One reason students overlook scholarship opportunities, Mr. Cassidy said in a recent interview, is that they look at the federal student-aid application and automatically assume they won't qualify for assistance. "Right away they think, 'I'm not eligible because my parents make too much money.'"

In fact, he said, 80 percent of private-sector scholarships do not require students to show financial need. And for that matter, 90 percent of them do not require students to have a straight-A average. "We even have scholarships that go down to a 2.0 GPA," he said.

When applying for aid, he said, students should first write to schools and ask for financial-aid information, including information on government-sponsored aid programs. Ask for a school's catalogue as well, he advised, because it will list endowments and alumni that sponsor special awards.

And students should not worry about being too old or too young to find a scholarship. His book offers 14 college-scholarship programs for students who are high school freshmen.

The Federal Trade Commission announced this month that it is cracking down on unscrupulous companies that bilk students of millions of dollars each year through fraudulent scholarship guarantees. ("FTC Targets Unscrupulous College Aid Firms," Sept. 11, 1996.)

Mr. Cassidy hailed the FTC's efforts, noting that his organization has its own "scam file" that is growing daily--party from his own efforts to identify shady operators.

In his scholarship book he has planted a few bogus scholarships with requirements so obscure that no one could rightfully qualify for them. Some "scam" firms take his bait when they indiscriminately lift addresses out of his book and forward them to students for a price. When students send letters of inquiry to his bogus address--he said he gets two or three such letters per day--he calls them to ask where they got the address.

"There was a guy in the back of Rolling Stone advertising guaranteed scholarships for $5," Mr. Cassidy said. "You got my address."

--JEANNE PONESSA [email protected]

Vol. 16, Issue 03

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