Archive for Thursday, December 1, 2011

Town Talk: Student financial aid company moving to N. Lawrence, may add 100 jobs; Masonic Temple project on the ropes; Eudora to host Christmas extravganza

December 1, 2011


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News and notes from around town:

Several weeks ago we told you to keep an eye open for a call center to move into North Lawrence’s I-70 Business Center and add about 70 jobs. Well, now we have more news on the project, and it is better than expected. Lawrence’s Student Financial Aid Services Inc. has confirmed that it is moving into the center and could be adding as many as 105 new jobs in the near term.

Student Financial Aid Services has been based out of the Golf Course Superintendents Association building in West Lawrence. But the company’s business has been growing — the company started in Lawrence with eight employees and currently has 70. This move — which is expected to be completed next week — allows the company to triple its space.

The company specializes in providing financial planning and assistance for students and families that are seeking financial aid for college or post-secondary education. The company is a subsidiary of a larger financial aid services company, The Rezolve Group. The local operations are run by longtime Lawrence resident Aaron Detwiler.

The company plans to hire for four types of positions as part of its expansion:

  1. Student aid advisers who respond to inbound calls from existing clients who need assistance in preparing for financial aid assistance.
  2. Student aid sales specialists who handle inbound calls from first-time clients inquiring about the company’s services.
  3. Service center supervisors who manage teams of about 15 to 20 advisers.
  4. A variety of positions in marketing, human resources, training and quality assurance.

The company plans on having an on-site job fair during the first quarter of next year. People interested in applying for positions can contact the company at

• Folks who are hoping to see a renovation of the historic Masonic Temple in Downtown Lawrence ought to be waiting on the edge of their seats about now. As we previously reported, city commissioners approved a substantial package of financial incentives for the project. The incentives were thought to allow the building’s owner — a group led by local businessman Doug Compton — to renovate the place for local caterer Steve Maceli to use as a unique reception and banquet hall. But Maceli — who would continue to operate his existing location on New Hampshire Street — has confirmed to me that he hasn’t yet signed a deal to move forward on the project. He said figuring out how to cover the operating expenses of the building has been tougher than he originally envisioned.

“It is a big monster of a building,” Maceli said. “We are taking our time to be very thorough. It would be a project of significance in a building of significance. If we do it, we want to do it right.”

Maceli hasn’t officially declared the project dead, but it clearly has moved into the category of “if it will happen” rather than “when it will happen.”

Maceli said he is meeting with the building’s owners again soon, and he said Compton had been open to a lot of ideas to try to keep the project alive.

“Doug Compton has been working with me as best he can,” Maceli said. “He really has been great to work with.”

The city structured the incentive package — which included property tax rebates and cash assistance to make some ADA and fire sprinkler improvements — in a way that required the building to be used as a banquet/reception hall.

Basically, if the Maceli’s deal falls apart, so does the incentives package. That likely would mean that Compton would be back to square one in trying to renovate the building and finding a user for it. Compton previously has conceded that it has been tough to find a user for the unique layout of the 100 year old building. The building — which is at 10th and Massachusetts streets — has been empty for eight years.

• This weekend is a big one for getting into the Christmas spirit. Downtown Lawrence’s Old Fashioned Christmas Parade will start at 11 a.m. on Saturday. But if you want to do a double-header, the folks in Eudora have an event going on Sunday. The Eudora Chamber of Commerce will host a Holiday Extravaganza Open House that will benefit the Eudora Food Pantry and Community Living Opportunities. The event will include a silent auction for decorated Christmas trees, sleigh rides provided by CLO’s Midnight Farms, pictures with Santa, treats for the kids and musical entertainment. The event is charging $5 for a picture with Santa or that fee is waived if you donate two cans of food. Donations also are accepted for the sleigh rides. The event will run from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Eudora High School, which is just south of the Kansas Highway 10 and Church Street interchange.


coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

That's the FAFSA.COM company for anyone not familiar. They capitalize year after year on people who still manage not to know the difference between .com and .gov.

pizzapete 6 years, 4 months ago

And the people who do sign up to pay for this "free" service are continously billed via their credit card until they call to cancel.

I worked there for a year and think it's a total scam. It is a sales job, selling people on a service the government provides for free.

kochmoney 6 years, 4 months ago

And ironically, the people who do know the difference will reach the call center located out on the east end of town.

pizzapete 6 years, 4 months ago

The business has every right to exist. But if you sign up with them you will be billed long after you graduate, leave school, or no longer need their service. And they do take advantage of people who are new to financial aid and do not benefit from their services. At least UPS offers a 100% benefit and is not charging unsuspecting people for their service and continuing to bill them long after their package has been sent. I found the company to be highly unethical. They are more concerned with sales than providing any real benefit.

I do agree it's a free country, so there is little reason a private company shouldn't have the right to take advatage of high school kids from poor families looking for assitance to pay for their higher education.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

It seems like any business could file a trademark infringement claim against another business for this type of thing, but the government either doesn't bother, or hasn't been successful. I wonder if there's a legal rationale somewhere here. Otherwise, the only thing I can think of is the same old political rhetoric about not wanting to crowd out the private sector.

MACFallon 6 years, 4 months ago

The federal government offers students two choices when preparing a federal student aid application (FAFSA) - either they can do it themselves on the U.S. Department of Education's Web site, or, similar to income tax preparation, they can receive fee-based, professional expertise from a legitimate and knowledge FAFSA preparation service, one like this company, which focuses on accuracy and not gaming the system to ensure students receive the most aid possible.

pizzapete 6 years, 4 months ago

Yea, what MACFallon said, they hire a bunch of uneducated kids to fill out a free government form for students looking for financial assistance. It is more like paying someone $100 to fill out a job application for you.

And the company is happy to take money from low income Americans who do not realize they can fill out the form for free and get free assistance from the government.

Your company has no shame.

pizzapete 6 years, 4 months ago

Well yea, they refer to it as the FAFSA application, so some people do miss the part about it being free. Especially if they're looking for the information online. And not knowing the difference between .com and .gov is still an issue for some people.

You guys always compare it to taxes, like you have CPA's or other professionals filling out the form. Taxes are complicated, for a few people the FASFA form is complicated and aome may benefit from your service, but don't compare it to hiring an accountant. It's more like hiring a service to write a nice card to your wife, mother, etc on their birthday or Valentines day for $50 and then charging them again and again every year until they call to stop the charges.

kochmoney 6 years, 4 months ago

Or they can call the free student aid hotline and receive information for free about filling out the free form accurately, and did I mention that all of this was free?

Emily Mae 6 years, 4 months ago

What does MACFallon's 'supposed' employment of this company have to do with the validity of her statement?

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

I've got to admit that that's a well-crafted PR line, even despite the grammatical error in the use of the word knowledge.

But like you say, it is one of two options for filling it out. The federal option is free, and offers customer support. People can also get free support from high school guidance counselors and financial aid offices at their college. Trying to charge for something that's available for free elsewhere strikes me as nothing short of predatory.

MACFallon 6 years, 4 months ago

There's nothing predatory about offering an option that is allowed by federal law. Student Financial Aid Services' Web site is very transparent about its services and fees and explains the "free" option of doing it yourself on the Dept. of Education's Web site. The last few people who have served as the U.S. Secretary of Education have complained that the government's aid application is very complex. Like income tax preparers, legitimate fee-based FAFSA preparers help thousands of people with this complexity.

Not everyone has the time, interest or information to prepare their FAFSA and want professional help tackling the more than 130 asset, income and dependency questions the FAFSA asks. After all, there's a lot at stake and inaccuracies can drop people out of the virtual line for aid, most of which is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Most high school counselors don't have the time to help students prepare their federal student aid application. Colleges and other post secondary schools typically don't help high school students who are applying schools, although some do help their own students. College Goal Sundays offer free professional assistance but usually only one day in a community.

Lastly, I sign comments with my real name and I am Rezolve Group's / Student Financial Aid Services' communications consultant (sorry for mistyping the spelling of knowledgeable in my first comment.)

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

The predatory part comes in when you use a domain name that's similar to the government's, driving unwitting applicants to your service. If Rezolve were to drop the domain name, I would have less of a problem with what the company does.

Regardless, you are painting a half truth. Almost all federal aid is need based and not first come first serve. There are a few federal programs that depend on application date (FSEOG and Perkins if I remember right), but Stafford Loans and Pell Grants are what the vast majority of what goes out, and depend entirely on need. You can apply a week before classes start, and if you have enough need to get a Pell grant, you'll get one. Admittedly, state aid programs are different, and I'm sure Rezolve has a handful of case examples where someone happened to get one of the few FSEOG grants, but my hunch is that most people get little more from paying $80 than they would get from the free process. To me, that means Rezolve's primary business strategy relies on fear and confusion.

A different point I have, albeit minor, is that the position of Secretary for the US Dept. of Ed is a political appointment, not a civil service one. I would be reluctant to trust his or her opinion on how the financial aid process should work since their position has regular turnover and depends on the political process. Of course, the aid process should be easier, but it's been getting easier every year. I know some people who get it done in 10 minutes.

Finally, you did not sign your comment with your real name. You signed it with your job title. I'm being a little snarky here, but I would think that someone who works in the FAFSA realm would be very familiar with the concept of signing something.

Megan Tugman 6 years, 4 months ago

So instead of being happy for more jobs for our community with a locally owned company, you'd rather whine about perceived business motives? Sounds productive.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

Student Financial Aid Services is owned by Rezolve, Inc. which is headquartered out of Sacramento. I don't think that qualifies as locally owned.

And you can try to write off what I've said as a perception, but there's still something sketchy about a business that uses a domain name that's almost identical to the federal government's. I would have much less of a problem with this business if they simply switched to a less misleading domain name.

pizzapete 6 years, 4 months ago

The owner is actually Australian and lives in Australia.

I agree it would be different if they changed the domain name. They require their workers to "sell" the service to people that don't need it or who would be better off not spending their very limited income to fill out a form that is very easy to complete.

It's only the very rich who might benefit from a service like this, not the majority of Resolves clients. Only the rich have the complicated financial situations that might require professional assistance and the people they hire sure as heck aren't accountants.

kochmoney 6 years, 4 months ago

The very rich aren't going to qualify for financial aid.

lawrencian2011 6 years, 4 months ago

I work for this company, as you mention you did as well, pizzapete.

The CEO lives in Australia, not the owner. I'm not an expert on this, but I don't think Rezolve has an "owner". The CEO's father, who founded one of the parent companies before they merged, is from California I believe. Or at least was living in California when he founded the Davis, CA company that merged with the Lawrence company.

The benefits of the service are not just making sure the form is accurate. It's also the expediency and convenience. Plenty of Rezolve's clients are fully aware that the form is available for free and choose to pay for the service.

OklahomaSunflower 6 years, 4 months ago

A few more corrections for you here.

SFAS was founded in California, but not by the CEO's father. It was founded in 1991 by college financial aid director Michael Alexander, who had experienced the challenges that students and their families face when attempting to complete the FAFSA. SFAS was merged with the local company by the CEO who is Australian but who currently lives in the States.

Rezolve Group is the parent company of SFAS. It does not have owners, but rather shareholders and a board of director.

We have clients who are not rich but who misreport assets and appear as though they have more wealth than they do. So I would argue that it is not only the very rich who benefit. I don't want to go into detail on why I think our service is better than using the free service, but I can say I wouldn't do it if I didn't believe it. That's why I left FSAIC to come here in first place.

merg311 6 years, 4 months ago

Maybe it's just me, but why pay for an application titled FREE Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)?

The application is not nearly as difficult as most would have you believe...

MACFallon 6 years, 4 months ago

Before the application had this name, everyone paid a fee to apply for aid. When Congress decided that was unfair, the opportunity to prepare the federal aid application without being individually charge was created and to communicate that change the word Free was made part of the name. While individuals don't have to pay a fee to prepare the form on the government's Web site, all taxpayers help pay for providing college students financial aid and processing the form.

kochmoney 6 years, 4 months ago

And that dodged the question with a runaround into the name. It's been a free form for decades. You can get free live help on the Web. You can call a free hotline for free help, which last I checked was even answered for free in the free state city itself, Lawrence, so calling the number is even supporting a local worker.

All taxpayers do help pay for this free service, so why exactly do they need to pay you again?

thepianoman 6 years, 4 months ago

Off the subject....but....FYI Chad and others....P-King has re-opened its doors! Sadly, though, they no longer offer a buffett!!!! :(

katsrkool 6 years, 4 months ago

@coderob you sure seem to know a lot about that company. Perhaps you used to work there? Maybe you are a little upset about some sort of termination??

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

No, I didn't work for Student Financial Aid Services. I did consider it until I realized just who they were. I really didn't want to have to risk later having to put an unscrupulous company down on my resume. I eventually ended up at Vangent for a while and picked up most of what I know about student financial aid there.

Chad Lawhorn 6 years, 4 months ago

Just a point of information, as I understand it. Vangent's Lawrence office processes the calls from people who fill out the financial aid application through the government's site. So, in a sense, Vangent (also a for-profit company) and Student Financial Aid Services are kind of competitors. It is kind of interesting, though, that no matter whether you fill the form out via a private company or through the government's Web site, that chances are your call will end up in Lawrence, Kan. Are we the most educated town in the country when it comes to student financial aid? Why doesn't that every show up in visitors brochure? Anyway, I talked with an exec at Student Financial Aid Services, and will have a fuller story online in a bit. Thanks, Chad

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

That's a really positive way of looking at it. My guess would be that Lawrence has both call centers because Kansas is generally a good place to set a call center up, similar to Iowa and Arizona where Vangent's other centers are at. They're non-unionized, so the cost of labor is low. Employment is at-will, at least in Kansas, making it easier to dismiss employees when call volumes dip due to the season. We get tornadoes, but those wouldn't cause near as big of a disruption as an earthquake or a hurricane. And we also are said to have a more neutral accent than most places. I'm not sure why Lawrence wins specifically, aside from the college population that doesn't mind seasonal work. Though I bet Rezolve doesn't mind it when Vangent people switch sides.

Doesn't Vangent have a new name nowadays?

Flap Doodle 6 years, 4 months ago

Is Vangent what NCS became after they were Pearson?

kochmoney 6 years, 4 months ago

Yes. I don't bother figuring out a name, because it seems to keep changing.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 4 months ago

Back in the day, it was NCS that processed the student aid applications. They had a call center in the Golf Course building and a precessing center in Iowa City. IIRC, they moved to new digs on the east side of town in 1997/1998 or so.

Tim Quest 6 years, 4 months ago

This company mentioned doesn't process student aid applications. They charge a fee to "assist" people filling out a form that takes roughly 20 minutes to fill out on one's own.

snapdragon 6 years, 4 months ago

"Employment is at-will, at least in Kansas, making it easier to dismiss employees when call volumes dip due to the season."

Unlike Vangent, Student Financial Aid Services does not do this. I have worked at Vangent and I am proud to now be an employee with Student Financial Aid Services and the Rezolve Group.

To coderob, it is one thing to have an opinion but unfair to talk bad about a company you know very little about.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

What would you say is inaccurate about what I've said so far?

snapdragon 6 years, 4 months ago

"They capitalize year after year on people who still manage not to know the difference between .com and .gov." This is your first comment and completely inaccurate. Student Financial Aid Services may have clients who go to initially thinking it is the government's web site but are then informed on the web site many times that they are not affiliated with the Dept. of Education. The reality is that most of the company's clients have come for assistance to file a form that is long and can be complicated. They are not mislead but are instead grateful for the time and money that is ultimately saved(gained, as many eligible people don't get the Pell Grant they are entitled to because they are selected for verification and are never told.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

I think what you're saying is that some schools fail to tell people they were selected for verification, and that people do not get aid because of this. I would really like to know how often that actually happens.

It seems impossible thinking about it. People applying are told by the federal government in the aid report whether or not they have to go through verification. The school collects things through its own process, but notifying people about verification happens the second people get their aid report. To even be selected for verification, you have to at least finish the application without obvious errors. If you were Pell eligible, it would say so on the web page and the aid report. Verification would only stop the Pell grant if the person actually wasn't eligible (they said they make $10,000 and have 5 kids, but really make $50,000 and have 1 kid).

Now if a person did not complete verification despite notification from the feds, and the school managed not to say anything about verification, it's not that the person wouldn't get a Pell grant. They wouldn't even get subsidized loans. Telling people that they might miss out on loans doesn't inspire the same level of fear as telling them they'll miss out a Pell grant. Again the company's business strategy is based on fear and confusion more than necessity.

Even if there's a scenario you can think of that makes it past all the major catches, the amount of people in that scenario is probably so tiny that most everyone who pays the $80 is exceedingly likely to get the 21st century version of snake oil.

With regard to the large notices on the website that tell people again and again that the company is not affiliated with the the US Department of Education, I do give the company credit for doing that much, although it was probably for liability's sake. If they really wanted to avoid confusion, however, they would drop the fafsa domain name altogether. They don't because confusing technologically illiterate people is their principle business strategy.

OklahomaSunflower 6 years, 4 months ago

Coderob - I believe you said you never worked for SFAS and spent maybe a little time at FSAIC. I'm not sure you are qualified to make statements regarding the accuracy of applications and likelihood of certain scenarios. I've been doing this for over 10 years, both for FSAIC and SFAS. I still am surprised by the unusual scenarios we encounter that cause difficulty in filling out the form. Most of the time I don't post on topics online because I don't consider myself education enough on a topic to make generalized, blanket statements. I think there are more people who should live by that model.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

It doesn't take an insider to see how a company benefits from using a government like domain name to win business. If you've got numbers to show how effective fafsa .com is, I would love to see them.

Next, I do wish people would comment more on this type of thing. We get problems as a society when people get complacent and don't question things. I'd even say my opinion has changed just after making a few comments online and hearing from so many people.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

Oh, and let me clarify just a bit what I meant about the at-will comment. It's not that Vangent or Student Finanical Services make a habit of firing everyone the second call volumes slip. I know a lot of people who made it past a year at Vangent and stayed on as full time employees for the long haul. And you can attest to the fact that Student Financial Aid Services will keep people on for a while. Instead, I was talking about call centers in Kansas in general. If they want to, they can terminate you pretty easily. In contrast, a state like California has stronger standards that often require just cause for firing.

Think about it. If you were going to hire 100 employees knowing that demand for your service is variable, would you go to the state where you can terminate people whenever you wanted or the one that required significant documentation?

And before anyone else asks, no, I did not get fired from Vangent. I stuck it out until greener pastures came along.

tsentz 6 years, 4 months ago

Just a few of the things that Americans currently pay for that they can do for free:

  • change your oil
  • file your taxes
  • get an education
  • clean your house
  • cook your meals

I see no harm in a professional company that files FAFSAs. I may not need the service personally, but I'm sure someone does. If professionals are what you do not want in America, please cook your own meals, file your own taxes, educate yourself via Wikipedia, and clean up after yourself, and watch the economy tank. You may not use all of those services, but I guarantee you use at least one.

mbulicz 6 years, 4 months ago

For three years of my college education, I was Pell grant eligible. I did not know that my dad would qualify as a dislocated worker. I did not answer the question correctly on the FAFSA three years in a row. The result? Over ten thousand dollars in loans to fund the last of my education, a costly and avoidable mistake for which I am still paying today. I could have had my education paid for in grant money. Today, I could be paying money back into the local economy as opposed to paying interest on student loans.

Had this service existed while I was in school, I would have gladly cashed in on the opportunity for someone to help me do my FAFSA. Taking an obscure and verbose government form and making it accessible is a business model which has existed for years, and will continue to exist as long as there are government forms.

And Coderob, I'd advise you to check out the revised Higher Education Act of 2008 which acknowledged the need and legitimacy of professional FAFSA preparation. I appreciate your input as an anonymous commenter on the internet and employee of an unrelated call center, but I think I'll defer to federally legislated endorsement of this business's model.

pizzapete 6 years, 4 months ago

You didn't read the form correctly. That's unfortunate, but it doesn't mean that the guy you pay to fill out the form for you would catch the mistake either.

mbulicz 6 years, 4 months ago

As there's no guarantee H & R Block will get your taxes right, either, nor is there a guarantee your doctor is going to accurately diagnose a disease.

Still, paid access to expertise has advantages. Perhaps you wouldn't have paid for your application. Guess we're entitled to our own opinions.

pizzapete 6 years, 4 months ago

BTW the dislocated worker is new to the form. It started in 2008 I believe. How in the heck could anyone, and you in particular, miss it? Read the form. I call BS on your claim.

deec 6 years, 4 months ago

IF Block messes up your taxes, they agree to pay the penalty, etc. Does this scummy company guarantee their work? Just because it is legal doesn't mean it is moral or ethical.

mbulicz 6 years, 4 months ago

The misunderstanding from reading the question was that the parent had to be receiving unemployment. There are many other caveats to the question; the point is that I would have qualified on a technicality that I did not understand from the brief question on the FAFSA.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

There are two things you don't want to see made: sausage and legislation. Just because it made it into law, doesn't make it good policy.

The issue isn't with the private service, but rather using a deceptive domain name to increase sales, not dissimilar from the porn site that used to be at, though I'm sure that comparison bothers some of you. There's more deception in trying to convince people they'll miss out on a Pell grant if they don't use the company's service. Bill it only as a way to save time, and I think the business gains a lot more legitimacy.

(Side note: I don't work for Vangent anymore, and haven't for a while now.)

lawrencian2011 6 years, 4 months ago

Hi coderob,

You have valid points. I work for Rezolve and I don't like the fact that some of our clients don't realize that they're not speaking with a representative (because they don't ask). There are other things that bother me, such as that the 79.99 charge on our home page is in a light blue font that just happens to blend in really well with the white background.

On the other hand, deceptive-but-legal business practices are practically ubiquitous across all industries. There are standard sales practices, such as asking a potential customer open-ended questions, or highlighting how the service/product will benefit the customer...these practices are meant to sway someone's decision in the moment, rather than to help them make the best decision for themselves. Then there is advertising in general, which often manufactures desire. Candy is at the checkout counters and across from the cereal boxes in the grocery stores. Toys are across from the cereal boxes too. Product packaging is colorful and appealing. Cell phones are advertised as enabling us to connect better with our families and friends, and are "smart". Etc etc.

I'm wondering if you take issue with the fact that search engines place ads at the top of their search results, with only slightly different coloring and barely-visible acknowledgement of sponsorship? To my mind this is just as disingenuous as a domain name, and I know from experience that that placement choice drives a lot of customers to our site. And yet Google would not be lambasted if they were to set up some kind of local shop here in Lawrence.

My point is that the entire issue is pretty grey rather than black-and-white.

Along these same lines, I've heard lots of stories from people working in various parts of Vangent (FSAIC, Medicare, etc) who now work at Rezolve, and Rezolve sounds like a much better company to work for as a phone rep. For one thing, you are hired as a full-time employee with benefits immediately, not as a temporary worker. For another, there are no seasonal lay-offs.

Also, Vangent is a contractor to the true employer (the Federal government) and so they are incentivized to make their employees end their calls as quickly as possible; Vangent is paid more for lower "talk times". Does this translate into good customer service for people calling in for help with their FAFSA? Sure doesn't.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

I'm glad to hear from someone who works there, but doesn't blindly defend the place. You make a lot of good points.

I'll admit that there are definitely issues at Vangent, and a lot of them stem from it being a public-private partnership of sorts. I remember being encouraged to tell people to just call us back again if they have more trouble after solving just one of their problems, which was clearly to the benefit of Vangent since it is paid per call.

But this is only part of the larger privatization trend across the globe. You've got politicians leasing out multi-billion dollar assets for 99 years, and then having no way of undoing things later on. It's a model that gets treated as a panacea, but that has real issues of equity when you examine it.

Another broad problem is that both businesses capitalize off of people pursuing higher education, a trend that seems all too similar to the housing bubble. I think I had the school code for the University of Phoenix and other for-profit online schools memorized at one point we got so many calls. $79.99 is a drop in the bucket compared with the loans people are getting and may not be able to repay. I would gain more respect for either company if they established scholarships for the needy. I also think the different levels of government need to work together to better subsidize in-demand fields without cutting funding for the more obscure ones. And those are only a few of the issues with higher education finance today.

OklahomaSunflower 6 years, 4 months ago

Lawrencian2011 - you say "I work for Rezolve and I don't like the fact that some of our clients don't realize that they're not speaking with a representative (because they don't ask)." For everyone who calls our sales line (yes, I work for Rezolve), we play a message that explains that we are not the Department of Education, that we are a preparer, and that the FAFSA can be filed for free at It is not possible to reach a sales advisor without hearing this message, even if you don't listen to it. I don't have the exact text right now, but you can ask for it when you come into work on Monday.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

Wouldn't avoiding confusion be easier if the company switched domain names?

snapdragon 6 years, 4 months ago

What would you suggest the domain be changed to?

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

The options are limitless with names. Be creative. The founder for HR Block, Henry Bloch named the company after himself, changing only the last letter of his name to avoid mispronunciation. Then he went public with an ad campaign The key is to find something different and then spend money on advertising, not relying on an internet gimmick to trick people.

Were the government a private company, Student Financial Aid Services would already have been successfully sued for trademark infringement, and poor college bound students would not have to deal with the confusion that comes from having two like-named organizations. Going the honest route would give them a lot more respect in my eyes.

Bob Forer 6 years, 4 months ago

Maceli "said figuring out how to cover the operating expenses of the building has been tougher than he originally envisioned."

Great. Just fricking great. I thought that an astute businessman would have the financial end of the business plan figured out prior to seeking a handout from the city. The city should withdraw the offer, as it sounds like we are dealing with a less than competent businessman. What happens if Maceili follows through on the plan and goes belly up six months later? The taxpayers are left holding that bag on all of the incentives they paid out that ultimately will fail to produce jobs and increased tax payments as promised.

QuinnSutore 6 years, 4 months ago

That's what happens in the Obama economy. "Hey this might work, let's throw more money at it!"

deec 6 years, 4 months ago

Well, yeah, but Dougie has another gussied up building on the taxpayer's dime, which is really the point. Dougie's been sucking off the gubmint's teat since long before Obama became president. It doesn't matter if the caterer makes a go of his business. The real goal is for Dougie of the 1% to snatch some more tax dollars.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

Is it me, or were there a lot of people who seemed to work for Student Financial Aid Services on the thread today? I've got a conspiracy theory cooking in my head about their HR firing off an email getting people to comment. Just my imagination though, I'm sure.

OklahomaSunflower 6 years, 4 months ago

I work for SFAS. I'm going to add a few posts to make some corrections, but not because someone told me too. I read Town Talk regularly and found this on my own.

deec 6 years, 4 months ago

This story sure seems to have a lot of brand new posters, who all write in a similar run-on style and make glaring word choice errors.(knowledge-knowledgeable; mislead-misled Interesting.

snapdragon 6 years, 4 months ago

People make typos all the time. Grow up.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

Yeah, I counted three people entirely defending the company, all with their first posts made today. I sort of wish I could get a job posting comments online, albeit not with this company.

deec 6 years, 4 months ago

Me, too. Some regulars on LJW keep saying George Soros is paying people to post on forums. I need to get me some of that, but I can't seem to find the application.

OklahomaSunflower 6 years, 4 months ago

Why do you assume we're being paid to post? I'm doing this on my own time.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

It just really seemed that way after reading so many comments that paid blind allegiance to what the company does.

snapdragon 6 years, 4 months ago

So if the company that you worked for was being attacked, you wouldn't defend it? I'm glad I don't work with you.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

This discussion isn't about me, but I probably would keep quiet to be honest. Of the places I've worked for, all have trained me that whenever anything media related comes along, you keep quiet and refer them to upper management, no matter whether the coverage is positive or negative. Commenting online to me is pretty much the same thing.

Still, biting the hand that feeds you is a difficult decision. I've got respect for people like Lawrencian2011 who are willing to acknowledge their company's fault publicly.

ResQd 6 years, 4 months ago

Who cares, rob. Not affiliated with either side, but I do know that I tried to complete my daughters FAFSA online several years back, and it was the MOST cumbersome piece of government crap that I've ever had to complete before. Gave me a headache to boot. Trying to get help from her Financial Aid Office and then go through the free telephone line was just as crappy. I would have paid someone back then to do it for me, less headaches. If the current system is not working for alot of people, more power to them.

pizzapete 6 years, 4 months ago

Yea rob. I tried to mow the grass once. I got my shoes all dirty and green and stuff, it was a real headache. Now I just pay a bunch of guys with odd accents to do it for me.

ResQd 6 years, 4 months ago

I'll bet your parents are very proud of you, Pete!

mbulicz 6 years, 4 months ago

That's the beauty of free enterprise; just because you wouldn't pay someone to do something for you doesn't mean someone else wouldn't, or shouldn't.

You are very right with your point. Some mow their own yards, some pay to have it done. It doesn't mean the landscaper is exploiting the customer just because the customer could, in theory, do it alone. It just they worked out a deal and are both happy with the outcome.

pizzapete 6 years, 4 months ago

It would be different if the government were offering to mow it for you for free.

merg311 6 years, 4 months ago

Many improvements have been made to the site over the past few years. Now there is even the ability to transfer information directly from the IRS. So for those who try to fly through the application just to get it over with or those who aren't educated enough to read the instructions "Report your Income Tax paid from line 55 of your 1040", that information can now just be transferred automatically.

Again, people get caught up or intimidated in doing the form because it's associated with the government, but if you just read the questions and the instructions listed, it's quite simple and not as cumbersome as many make it out to be.

Free enterprise though. If you can get a percentage of the American public to pay $79.99 even though there's an option to do it for free, so be it.

Jimo 6 years, 4 months ago

FAFSA was "the most cumbersome piece of government crap" ever?

Is the 1040EZ the runner-up?

I fear for the future of this country.

Maybe you plan to pay someone to attend college for you too.

God knows, if FAFSA was too difficult, remedial English will be a real cruncher.

Seriously, if you can operate a remote control then you can figure out FAFSA.

Didn't this scam have an earlier incarnation where someone would run a back of the magazine ad promising a magic disappearing kit for $1 and then after you sent in the dollar they'd send you a letter telling you that you made your money disappear?

ResQd 6 years, 4 months ago

No, but the 1040 can be, that's why I use Turbotax and I'm glad that it's available, even though I pay for it.

mbulicz 6 years, 4 months ago

Here's a link to the company's A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau:

At face value, the FAFSA is a form of filling out blanks. However, just as with more unique tax situations, students with unique financial situations may not have the same straightforward answers. If mom or dad passed away, or the parents separated just last month, whose income is reported and how? What about pensions and 401k withdrawals or payouts, is the entire amount reported, or just the taxable portion? What about equities in real estate, farm or business shared among multiple stakeholders? What happens to the household size with foster children, dependents, stepchildren, estranged adult children under 24, dependent students with kids supported by others while they attend school, and all the other real world situations faced by students? Is an ESOP program an asset or a retirement fund?

Though you may have had an "add line A to line B to get line C" situation on your form, many do not. It's not about adding and subtracting lines, but understanding what goes into those lines in the first place. One mistake can be the difference between $5550 and $0 in government Pell grants annually. What's more damaging is that if an error is made that affects financial aid, many students will not know. They will only see a reduced amount in federal aid without having the tools to catch or correct answers that made them appear to have more resources than they actually did.This mistake hits students in the pocketbook, and often with interest for years to follow.

Many people need advice to purchase houses, cars, stocks, etc. An investment like an education is equally important, can cost more than a house, and carries lifelong ramifications. The bottom line is, we all want to make sure we're not spending money we don't have to, and many of us pay for that access to knowledge.

If you didn't need help completing your form, more power to you. However, many obviously do - and according to BBB, they are very happy with their decision.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

Ethical businesses generally don't have to post BBB approval on their websites. A badge of approval from a third party means something, but not that the business is consistently ethical. A lot of private, for profit colleges post the same info, but have egregious practices as well. I bet Enron had BBB approval too.

As for your other questions, you should know as well as anybody that Dept. of Ed gives power to the schools to make a decision. And my hunch is that most people who pay the $79.99 don't fall into those categories. They're just rare situations used to inspire fear in Rezolve's clients.

thefisherman 6 years, 4 months ago

Seems to me like coderob needs to find another job. He's got way too much smack-talking time on his hands.

Did you look at their site? It says they're not affiliated with the federal (.gov) site and even links to them. I did the form myself almost ten years ago and surely could have used the help if I'd have known about them. I very likely got hosed out of financial aid because my parents wouldn't help fill out the form and I wound up over ten grand in the hole - despite having a relatively poor family. I wouldn't use them now, but I sure do have a financial advisor that handles my investments - I'd just rather not worry about it, despite the fact that I could use e-trade or some other such site to do it for a substantially lower cost. To each his own.

coderob 6 years, 4 months ago

I happen to have worked a bit in education and public policy. I've got a lot to say about this subject because of my own job experience. I think there are really important things to consider here, and that deception in the higher ed industry isn't very different from what happened in the housing industry. Writing the problem off as being something that gets to happen in a free market economy misses important consumer abuses that are occurring, and worse occurring in our community and tacitly condoned by LJworld.

Austin Bergstrom 6 years, 4 months ago

easy to distinguish the difference between ups and the usps: the brown trucks are working the umpteen holidays that the usps is not! oh and ups would be out of business if it were billions of dollars in debt every year!

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