Parents Complain About Arlington College Prep Company

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Some parents are accusing an Arlington business of scaring people, across the country, into paying a high price to get help planning for college.

“She was an honor student,” Harold Smith said as he stared proudly at a picture of his daughter Jennifer.

Jennifer Miller graduated from Mansfield High School in May. Harold had recently bought a house and knew sending his daughter to college would be a challenge.

He recalled thinking, “Maybe someday if she makes it, she can help me.”

Until then, Harold is helping her. Last fall, when a letter arrived from College Admissions Assistance he thought the company held all the answers.

According to Harold, the letter said Jennifer had been chosen for the program. They just had to attend a seminar, at a nearby hotel, to learn more. “They made it seem like they could do everything for us and I wouldn’t have to do anything.

Harold said the company convinced him the confusing college application process would be impossible to navigate without their help. They also claimed that with help from the company, Jennifer would get accepted into a university and even get financial aid. “They said they would help us achieve loans,” said Harold.

When Harold went to the seminar he says he was told he had to sign the contract right then. “It was a real high pressure business,” he recalled.

Harold agreed to pay more than $2,000 to supposedly “save time” and “money” to “stay on track” with “applications, testing, and financial aid”…all wording CBS 11 News found on the College Admissions Assistance website.

But after several months and $900 in payments Harold said, “It turned out to be a joke.”

More than 1600 miles away, in New York City, Gladys Stambakis is telling a similar story. The Stambakis family said after signing up, they received a few brochures, a phone call and a few emails from College Admissions Assistance. But they say none of it was of any real value. “They claim to give us services…they did not give any services.”

Gladys was expecting help finding scholarships, something she says was promised at the seminar she went to in a New York City. She says she too was pressured at the seminar; there it was to pay $175 a month to join. “They didn’t give you any time to think about it,” she said.

“Based on BBB standards, these would not reflect the standards we would like to see in the market,” Better Business Bureau of Fort Worth spokesperson Julie Ann Lyssy said.

The BBB has received 65 complaints, nationwide, about College Admissions Assistance. Lyssy said the BBB is concerned that the company is using such “high pressure techniques”.

The company’s address is listed with the BBB on Randol Mill Road in Arlington. CBS 11 found the office in a high-rise that was empty and locked.

The company’s website list another address, at another high-rise, near Interstate-30 in Arlington. While CBS 11 was able to locate the office it too appeared to be empty. A sign on the door read, “ring the buzzer to get help”. It also said the company was “moving here soon”.

The Chief Marketing Officer for College Admissions Assistance, Marilu Rios Kernan, inferred that any complaints were being handled. “We are privileged to have worked with over 25,000 client families, “ she said. “We wish we did not have any complaints. Our approach is to go the extra mile to fairly correct any mistakes or misunderstandings.”

Kernan provided CBS 11 the following statement

Fort Worth BBB spokeswoman Lyssy said the company is responding to the BBB’s complaints and even refunding the money of some customers.

College Admissions Assistance refunded Harold Miller everything he had paid and it let Gladys Stambakis out of her contract after she paid $700.

But Allison Amador of North Richland Hills is still paying the company and seems unable to get a refund.

Amador says after she signed up, she realized her son did not need help preparing for college and she could not afford to pay for the service.

While she said she understands she signed a contact, she is frustrated she can’t get out of it. “We are still making payments, payments we could be making towards his college,” said Amador.

Amador’s son and a wealth of other future college freshman all said their high school guidance counselors and free online websites provided better leads on financial aid and more information preparing for college than College Admissions Assistance.

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  • darrell

    anything that requires attendance at a hotel/motel or an office with folding chairs and tables is something to walk away from. anything that says “you were selected” “pre-approved” or “special invitation” is junk mail. a fool and his money.

  • dumbanddumber

    Sounds a lot like the tax money we are throwing away to elect incompetent officials to Washington DC. Can we get a refund from Washington?

  • Ray

    Typical sensational one sided reporting. The article mentions the company”s response and says “see below”, but where is Ms. Kernan’s statement? It is not “below” on my page. How did it get left out? 68 complaints out of 25,000 sounds good to me. Every business in the USA would be proud to have such a track record with the BBB. This reporter had to travel all the way to New York to find one unhappy client? It must be nice to take an all expense paid vacation to New York on your employer’s dime. Good job writing another one sided article to sell ads. I guess the truth would be too much to ask from this reporter or the media.

  • bdub77

    umm Ray – you should have gathered that they probably contacted everyone of those complaintents, and only a small number agreed to interview – and no where does it say the reported traveled to new york – in case you missed it, there are thing now days called telephones, and this new fangled device called a computer, which lets you send these electronic messages called email! get a grip! and yes- it’s your page. I could read the entire story without an issue..except you.

  • bdub77

    oh, and in case you missed it, 2 of the clients speaking up, are from TEXAS where this crock of a firm is located. and there were 65, not 68 complaints – of course, now it makes sense as to why you thought they travelled to New York…you can’t read. my bad

  • Little Mermaid
  • Rick McDaniel

    There’s a sucker born every minute.

    All of the higher education process, is now riddled with rip off artists, from the colleges themselves, to the fly-by-night companies preying on those who think they have to have help to get into college.

    Higher education is now frought with con artists, ripping off the consumer, and the foolish, and why is that happening? Largely because of the “college loan” business, which sucks in the students and the parents alike, and which institutions support, because that’s how they get students and keep their state funding.

    Realize that state policy, is part of the bigger problem of corruption in higher education finance. If the state bases their funding for the institution, on how many students are enrolled……..then that creates an artificial incentive, for schools to encourage any and all means of student funding, including those that are simply rip offs.

    The entire higher education system, is now riddled with corruption, BECAUSE it has become big business…… different from any large corporation, that seeks to part the consumer from his hard earned money!

  • ray

    “68” complaints per the video, divided in to 25,000 = .00272% complaint rate. The BBB likes to attempt to shake down companies for money. Sorry to rain on your parade, but the reporter finally posted the company’s response. Looks like the reporter forgot to mention a lot of the facts that completely discredit her story. But what do you care about facts? Bdub77, have any more personal insults you would like to add?

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