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Archive for Friday, December 2, 2011

Call center expanding into former outlet mall

This 2007 file photo shows an empty display case for shopper information and advertising at the I-70 Business Center. Lawrence’s Student Financial Aid Services Inc. confirmed this week that it is moving into I-70 Business Center in North Lawrence and could be adding as many as 105 new jobs in the near term.

This 2007 file photo shows an empty display case for shopper information and advertising at the I-70 Business Center. Lawrence’s Student Financial Aid Services Inc. confirmed this week that it is moving into I-70 Business Center in North Lawrence and could be adding as many as 105 new jobs in the near term.

December 2, 2011

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Lawrence’s national standing as the place to call to get answers about student financial aid is getting a boost with a major expansion of a private call center.

A little-known Lawrence-based call center that handles questions about student financial aid confirmed Thursday that it is expanding into the former Tanger Outlet Mall in North Lawrence and plans to add more than 30 employees by early next year.

Student Financial Aid Services Inc. has signed a lease to move into 19,000 square feet of space in the I-70 Business Center in North Lawrence. The company currently operates from the Golf Course Superintendent’s Association building in west Lawrence, but the sputtering economy has created new demand for the company that provides assistance for people applying for federal student aid.

“A lot of people who are looking for a job are getting the response that education is very important,” said Aaron Detwiler, vice president of operations for the company. “You have a lot more people going back to school, and that has caused the phone to ring more.”

The expansion adds to Lawrence’s reputation as a hub for the student financial aid industry. Vangent, the city’s largest private employer, operates a call center in the East Hills Business Park for people who have questions about filling out the financial aid application available on the government’s website.

Student Financial Aid Services’ Lawrence call center does the same type of work, except for a private website that offers a paid service for people who need additional assistance in filling out the application.

“We compare our business to a tax preparation service,” Detwiler said. “Everybody has the opportunity to submit the information for free, but a lot of people choose to go to a professional.”

In addition, the company also works with several Fortune 500 companies to manage their employee tuition reimbursement programs.

The company has been on a strong growth curve. The call center had eight employees in 2007 but grew to 70 employees earlier this year. The company has added another 20 employees in recent weeks, and expects to be to 125 employees by the middle of January. In total, the move will allow the company to add about 105 employees, Detwiler estimated.

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

• Student aid advisers who respond to inbound calls from existing clients who need assistance in preparing for financial aid assistance.

• Student aid sales specialists who handle inbound calls from first-time clients inquiring about the company’s services.

• Service center supervisors who manage teams of about 15 to 20 advisers.

• A variety of positions in marketing, human resources, training and quality assurance.

Detwiler said almost all of the position will be full-time with benefits. He said most of the jobs will pay around the $11.50 per hour range, in addition to monthly performance bonuses.

The company — which is a subsidiary of a larger financial aid services company, The Rezolve Group — plans on hosting an on-site job fair in early 2012.

Comments

frankfussman 2 years, 9 months ago

The form is the FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a US government program. This company moving to the outlet mall charges people to help them fill out the form. A friend who works there is not happy when someone who is paying $75 or more for help has already done all the work needed, but still has to pay. They confuse fafsa.ed.gov> with fafsa.com>. The first one offers free advice, the second one, at the outlet mall, charges a lot of money for the same service.

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FarneyMac 2 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, it's a total scam. But jobs are jobs, I suppose.

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MACFallon 2 years, 9 months ago

The federal government provides students 2 options for preparing the extensive federal student aid application - to do it themselves on the U.S. Department of Education Web site or to get help from a professional aid advisory and preparation service. Always Student Financial Aid Services informs Web visitors and callers of their options and is transparent about its services and fees. Not everyone has the time, knowledge, or interest to prepare their aid application. For some, the approximately 130 asset, income, and dependency questions are difficult, which is why there are options for completing the form just as there are options for preparing income tax forms. (Mary Fallon, communications consultant for Student Financial Aid Services.)

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kochmoney 2 years, 9 months ago

Thank you, paid spokesperson for a company that charges people to fill out a form that they could fill out for free. You forgot that they also have a free phone number they could call, 1-800-4 FED AID for those of you playing at home or they could get free live chat help from the website itself.

Now if they still want to pay someone to help them instead of getting that same help from free , then God bless America, I suppose, but don't try to sell us the used car with the PR pitch.

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pizzapete 2 years, 9 months ago

You should say when you go to OUR website.

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coderob 2 years, 9 months ago

If they were truly legitimate, they would drop their fafsa .com domain name. Charging for help filling out government paperwork is one thing. Pretending to be the government even in the slightest is another, much more fraudulent activity. And while the laws may be set up in their favor for now, that doesn't make them a morally acceptable business, especially since many of the people that would fall for their trick are the poorest of the poor. I'm just sad that there are still people in financial situations that might have to swallow their pride and work for these hucksters.

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MACFallon 2 years, 9 months ago

Student Financial Aid Services does provide many low income students complimentary aid application preparation services under a program called Access for All. As for the URL, it was created many years ago by a previous owner of one of the businesses that came together as Student Financial Aid Services. He was a college financial aid officer. (Mary Fallon, communications consultant, Student Financial Aid Services)

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coderob 2 years, 9 months ago

Just how many people get complimentary application help?

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Greg Parrish 2 years, 9 months ago

Per the press release issued to local media SFAS has assisted a little over 22,000 low income families in the last 2-years for free.

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TopJayhawk 2 years, 9 months ago

Well Mr. Fussy. Then go to the other one.

a man's got to make a living.

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JustNoticed 2 years, 9 months ago

.The company exists because people wind up at FAFSA.COM instead of FAFSA.GOV and don't realize the difference despite the very clear disclaimers on the FAFSA.COM website. It's incredibly cynical but true that Student Financial Aid Services Inc. offers legitimate help to folks who can't or won't read but still want to go to college. They are often surprised when they arrive at the end of the application and are asked for a credit card to pay the $79.99. .The same assistance is provided at no charge by the folks who answer the phone at FAFSA.gov. They work for government contractor Vangent (recently bought by General Dynamic) and one of Vangent's call centers is in Lawrence in the East Hills Business Park. In fact, Student Financial Aid Services Inc. was started by people who used to answer the phone at FAFSA.GOV. Some clever people saw a business opportunity, good for them. And, after all, buyer beware. .Vangent services several government contracts from the Lawrence and other call centers. Contracts include supporting the FAFSA, Direct Loans, the National Student Loan Database and several other Department of Education contracts. The Lawrence site also supports a variety of other government contracts including 1-800-MEDICARE.

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coderob 2 years, 9 months ago

Do you work for FAFSA .com? You posted your first comments yesterday, and almost entirely commented defending the two articles about the call center. Everyone can comment, but save me from having to assume who I'm arguing with.

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pizzapete 2 years, 9 months ago

I would guess 70% of the calls I got while working there were from people who told me they didn't understand why the application was asking for a fee and they had to pay it. These were callers already screened by someone else and sent to me for enrollment. They had no understanding of what was going on and we had to sell, sell, sell or we would lose our job.

Thirdplan you obviously are on the payroll and you're not doing a good job of selling it either, no thanks.

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JustNoticed 2 years, 9 months ago

Of course Aaron Detwiler likes to compare his company to a professional tax preparer since that sounds much nicer than the truth. The people at FAFSA.GOV are no less "professional" than his employees.

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coderob 2 years, 9 months ago

HR Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Turbotax all have their own unique domain names. Fafsa .com stole most of its name from the government, and likely only exists today because it got away with it legally. They can try to legitimize themselves through comparisons all day long, but in the end they make a profit by tricking poor people.

And the comparison to the 1040 isn't quite appropriate. One form may be shorter, but you can skip most of the form through the fafsa.ed.gov website. Besides, the FAFSA isn't nearly as complicated as the tax code. Most of the grey areas are covered in two pages on the form, whereas there are lots of attorneys that spend their careers debating parts of the tax code. You hear about people going to tax court often enough. How often do you hear about someone going to FAFSA court?

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sad_lawrencian 2 years, 9 months ago

These people are frauds. Just look at their website (fafsa.com). They fool you into thinking you're talking to a representative of the U.S. Dept. of Education. Frauds!

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Toni Shelton 2 years, 9 months ago

How exactly do they fool you into thinking that? Because you assume that is who you are talking to because you have failed to read what is posted on the site? You failed to read the top of the page that says "We are not affiliated with the Dept of Education". It is amazing how many people are so negative all because they cannot take one minute to read everything.

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sad_lawrencian 2 years, 9 months ago

Their website says, "Become a client of the nation's oldest and largest student aid advisory service for as little as $79.99." This is misleading. "Oldest and largest" makes them sound like a legitimate government service. Also, nowhere on their website does it mention that FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (emphasis on the word "free"). You have to go to the bottom of the website to find out, "The FAFSA can be filed for free, without professional assistance at www.fafsa.ed.gov." Frauds.

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kochmoney 2 years, 9 months ago

It also neglects to mention that the FAFSA can also be filled out for free WITH professional assistance at the .gov site.

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deec 2 years, 9 months ago

If the educational level of the employees/ posters are indicative of the entire call center, it is sad. All the new users since yesterday who've been posting on the call center stories do not use proper punctuation, make egregious word choices, and write run-on and/or incomplete sentences. That's pathetic coming from people who are charging a lot of money to help other people fill out complicated forms.

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coderob 2 years, 9 months ago

This is a minor grammatical point, but check out their website. The second link on their home page says "Understanding FAFSA." Shouldn't it be "Understanding the FAFSA?" These guys seem more and more like Nigerians with every passing moment.

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pizzapete 2 years, 9 months ago

The problem I have with this company is they they do 100% rely on first time applicants who don't understand the FAFSA is free and confuse the .gov site with the .com site. In addition, once someone enrolls with them the unwitting client is billed for the service year after year as an added benefit until they notice the bill and call to cancel. Could you imagine if you went to a tax service one year and they automatically billed you every year thereafter until you called them to cancel? Scam, Scam, and more Scam!

Refute that Rezolve!

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OonlyBonly 2 years, 9 months ago

Just Googled "fasfa" Call center was listed first then the .GOV then call center again. Went to website and from what I see most of you critics are blowing smoke! Fee is listed in the second line, notifications near bottom of how to get it done free. Find some other business to slam unless you do your homework better than you have here. And you all know I'm not associated with 'em.

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kochmoney 2 years, 9 months ago

I'm not associated with them, either, and it still looks deceptive to me. The link to the gov website and "we are not affiliated" bits are in the least trafficked portions of the page. The colorful callout squares which would naturally draw the eye don't list the fee and give you a call to action to either click the button to fill out the web form - $79 to fill out the same web form you could fill out for free.

Yes, the info is there, but it's meant to be there only if you're looking for it.

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Toni Shelton 2 years, 9 months ago

And why wouldn't you read everything? I for one never go to any website and put in my personal information before I have read everything I can first. And maybe if one is distracted by pretty colors, they shouldn't be filling ANYTHING out online. Goodness, imagine what you could get people to sign over to you if the colors were just right on your website.

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Lawrence Morgan 2 years, 9 months ago

There are many people, some poor, some rich, who want to have their grammar correct and their forms filled out satisfactorily. Many do it on their own. But I have no problem with people who have others help them with their form. If even some of them get loans, or student aid, then that's fine with me, however they do it.

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pizzapete 2 years, 9 months ago

Grammar corrected? That isn't what they do at all. With someone else typing your information into the system you are more likely to have spelling mistakes, not less. Seriously, would you pay someone to fill out a job application for you if you had no money? They aren't "helping" they're just inputing the information over the phone.

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Robert Kidder 2 years, 9 months ago

I am amazed at the negativity found in many of the above comments. Although, I seldom feel compelled to defend a company in an online story - this one deserves it.

I am not a paid employee of The Rezolve Group. I have, however, worked around the company and its employees for the past 3 plus years. They have been tenants at the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America building on Research Park Drive. I am the Senior Facilities Coordinator for GCSAA. As such, I have had the opportunity to work with their management and staff - all of which have presented as professional, courteous, and honest.

The Rezolve group has grown considerably since they first moved into the GCSAA building. They did not do this by providing a bad product or service, or by being an awful employer, or by being bad neighbors in their community. In fact, the opposite is true.

The group constantly has some form of community service, volunteerism, or fund raising for Lawrence charities; they are good neighbors.

Rezolve appears to be a good employer. I have watched their consistent growth, through the retention of good employees. Growth that now has forced them to seek more space then our building could offer them. They will be missed at GCSAA; yet, wished the best in their expansion.

Now, as to the services they offer. I find it difficult to believe that anyone can go to this company's website and not realize that they have choices. The company provides links to eight "free" services (http://www.fafsa.com/understanding-fafsa/free-fafsa-assistance). Keep in mind, though, that the "free" services are not really free - just paid for by you and your neighbor's taxes. So, why do many choose to pay Student Financial Aid Services to do something that they can do for free themselves? I believe that is is because of their professionalism and accuracy in preparing the FAFSA. In doubt? Go to their website. It is straight-forward. Still in doubt? Check out their A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org/northeast-california/business-reviews/financial-aid-scholarship-companies/student-financial-aid-services-in-sacramento-ca-22000009).

To the Rezolve Group (Bob, Jeniffer, Jason, Mike, Sharl, Aaron, and the rest): Good luck and Godspeed.

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pizzapete 2 years, 9 months ago

I agree that the outlet mall is in need of tenents. Maybe someone should start a medicare.com web site to trick seniors into switching to a private insurance plan to take over their medicare coverage. Or maybe we could allow Bernie Madoff to set up a socialsecurity.com site to help seniors with their retirement funds. Think of all the jobs we could create.

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coderob 2 years, 9 months ago

That's actually impressive that they are forming a positive relationship with the community. I commend them on that.

But what's been said here is less negative than what you can find in other online forums. Search just a few and you'll see parents, students, and financial aid administrators who have even more to say about having received poor customer service, fearing that their identities were stolen, and even that their FAFSAs were submitted a week late or not at all. This business has a bad PR problem, and it deserves that problem.

The disclaimers on their site are attempts to avoid lawsuits at best, and are not the appropriate solutions to fix Rezolve's problem. The business compares itself with HR Block, but HR Block doesn't have to put a banner up saying it's not affiliated with the IRS because HR Block went through the steps long ago to establish its own brand.

I'm surprised that Rezolve hasn't gone through these steps already. They probably miss out on people who really would pay $80 for someone else to fill out the form, but also feel uncomfortable with the trick that got them to the website in the first place. Their domain name isn't just some problem for people who like to complain on the internet. It's a real business problem that could keep them from capturing a larger market share.

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Toni Shelton 2 years, 9 months ago

It seems to me, as I just looked at the website, is that the only people who would be upset by this service, or feel scammed, are the people who did not take the time to look through the website before jumping in. In less than a minute I saw the fee, the fact that they are not affiliated with the Dept of Education and a link that showed me where I could get it done free. I also saw a box that states that you can do your own filing for FREE at fasfa.ed.gov. So I'm lost at how anyone could be confused or misled by this website. If you are being tricked, it's because you tricked yourself. And you could find negative things about any company if you look for them. Every company can not please everyone.

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coderob 2 years, 9 months ago

Shygirl, have you seen the contact us page for the website? It has a separate phone number for refund requests.

The difference between you and me is that you would see that refund request number as a sign that the business helps people who accidentally use their service.

I see that refund request number and see a business that tricks people through their domain name and keeps a separate phone line for refunds because a large amount of people fall for their trick and are angry about it. I never fell for this trick myself, but I really sympathize with the frustration of people that did, and see this company as just one more shameful stumbling block on their way towards trying for a better life.

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