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Scholarship surfing – Sites link students to funds

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Online scholarship databases are fast replacing bulletin boards or visits to a high school counselor in the search for college money, the Associated Press reports.

“It’s just amazing and at times gut-wrenching how desperate kids and parents are for funds,” Larry Gerber, president of Scholarships.com, told the Associated Press. Gerber’s company offers a free database of more than 600,000 scholarships matched to students according to the personal information they provide on the site.

Revenues for sites like this one come from advertisements or marketing links advertising everything from college loan rates to online textbook companies. Free sites often contain warnings about scholarship scams, or companies that promise to find students money – for a price.

Scholarship providers say application numbers have exploded as a result of Web sites like Scholarships.com.

“If you really want to give away money, you’re going to have more and more students coming to you from web-based resources,” said Mark Davis, president of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation in Atlanta. When the scholarship program began in 1989, it received 48,000 applications. That number jumped to 137,000 last year, Davis said.

Some small scholarship providers find the growth difficult to manage, Gerber said, and complain about the cost of sending out so much information. Other providers, like Coca-Cola, have begun accepting applications online to cut costs.

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