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SCHOLARSHIP MATCHING SERVICE

In Sept. 1991, after reading all the literature on Academic Guidance Services, Inc., in Mt. Laurel, N.J., I enrolled in its program. I was assured they needed someone in this area and that the Salt Lake area had no one else here selling this program.

(Editor's note: Academic Guidance Service Inc. says it tries to match students with universities and colleges that offer scholarships, both private and public, that are suitable to them. The name of the program is Financial Aid Finder. Licensees, like our reader, pay the company $495 for a kit that includes reproducible documents that can be mailed to potential college students. Interested students send the licensee a filled-out application and the licensee forwards it to the company along with a $15 processing and handling fee. The licensee may charge whatever she or he likes for the service, which in this case was $59.)So, I sent the company a $495 bank draft and spent about $400 for printing costs, envelopes and postage fully expecting to get the desired results.

When I went to the printers to get some copies made, there was an order for the same material on the counter for someone else. I asked the clerk how long he had been doing work like this for the other person. He said for about five months. I later found out there are four to five other people selling this program here.

I mailed 250 letters and then another 250 letters. I didn't receive even one response.

I called the company and was told I had to wait three years before I could get my money back in the event the program didn't work out.

I don't have to wait three years to know this is not going to work. I have been throwing money down the proverbial hole and have received nothing back. NOT ONE RED CENT!

I hope you can help me with this problem. - Ms. C., Kearns.

We are sending the company a copy of your letter. We are also sending a copy of your letter to the Federal Trade Commission which has received similar complaints about the company.

A company spokeswoman told us over the phone that requests from licensees for refunds are considered on an individual basis. She suggested you send her a letter outlining your problem.

She also said no one from the company would have told you you were the only licensee in your area.

Unfortunately, you didn't write down the name of the person you claim told you that, or the date and time the conversation took place.

You signed a contract that stated you would remain involved with Academic Guidance Services for at least three years and pay semi-annual updating fees of $72. Also, according to the contract, there are no territorial restrictions.

The company could well decide to hold you to the contract.

Your problem illustrates the importance of reading and understanding a contract before you sign it.

It also brings to light the importance of understanding exactly what you're selling. You were charging $59 for scholarship information that is available free in reference books at public libraries and at financial aid offices of colleges and universities.

For instance, "The Scholarship Book," available in non-fiction reference sections of public libraries, lists scholarships available from public and private sources. Many high schools also have scholarship reference materials.

The spokeswoman, however, claims the company provides a valuable matching service and includes private scholarships.

If you had mailed us one of your solicitations, we, too, would have declined along with the other 500 people you sent letters to.