WESTMINSTER — Vickie S. Jackson has set her academic sights on Duke University in Durham, N.C.
With an outstanding high school record and the right SAT scores, the North Carroll High School senior could be accepted tothe university's School of Engineering.
Diane and Glenn Jackson support their 16-year-old daughter's decision. The family traveled south last week, toured the school and met with its administrators. They liked what they saw.
All systems would be go, if the Jacksons can come up with $23,000 a year for tuition, board and fees. The final tab for four years of college could cost more than the home the Jacksons purchased six years ago in Hampstead.With a younger child following her sister to college, the couple is not anxious to rack up major debts.
Benjamin Perricone may have a solution to the quandary, which many parents face.
From his home here, he began Educational Resource Services, a business that helps match students with private sources of financial aid.
Perricone, 32,graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, several years ago, with "a healthy amount of debt" from loans used to finance his education. Saddled with monthly payments on those loans, he starteda career in the automotive industry.
"College is a real catch-22 situation," he said. "It's hard to go through life without a degree and it's getting harder and harder to pay for that degree."
Many graduates, like Perricone, spend years repaying tuition, often delayingthe purchase of a home.
"It would have been great, if I had had some other way of paying for college," he said.
With that thought in mind, he said, he came up with a concept for a business. He would hunt for scholarship money and sell the research product. He did some test marketing before taking the plunge into self-employment.
"I bounced the idea off friends and co-workers, who all saw a real need for the service," he said.
Using himself as a guinea pig, he fed his high school grades into the computer and came up with several sources.
For a $59 fee, he provides a client with a list of available private financial aid. No such service is available anywhere else in the state, he said.
"An estimated $100 million in private funds goes unused each year, simply because people don't know where to look for it," he said. "If the money is there, why not use it?"
Unlike state and federal education money, private scholarships often are awarded on a non-need basis, he said.
He asks families to fill out a brief financial form and list the student's academic record and extracurricular activities. With those facts in hand, he goes to work.
Inabout three weeks, he mails the family a list of at least six potential sources, with details on the amount of the awards, application deadlines and eligibility requirements.
"We match the student with the sources," he said. "They do the applying."
So confident is he of his service, he offers a money-back guarantee. After applying to all sources, if a student doesn't receive at least $200 in awards, the company will give him or her a $100 savings bond.
The service is for anyone who needs education money, whether for community college, trade or technical school or graduate studies. Straight A's are not a prerequisite, either. Money is available for average students, too.
"For some, it may mean the difference between going to the college of choice or settling for the one that matches the family budget," hesaid.
Vickie Jackson, who completed an application about a week ago, has excellent chances to win several thousand dollars in scholarships, he said.
"She may just be able to realize her dream of goingto Duke," he said.