SUNNYSIDE, Wash. -- The seminar invitation that Alejandro Campos and his family received in early March promised to help clear the path to a college education.
In its invitation, Right C3 offered the Sunnyside family help with scholarship assistance, financial aid guidance and online tutoring.
On its website, Right C3 says its goal is to find clients the “right college,” “right career” and “right cost,” which it says it does through a “proprietary software” program and a “large and diverse team” of college coaches.
However, the Better Business Bureau of Southern Nevada reports it has 125 complaints nationally, with many customers unsatisfied and frustrated with the company, its services and pricing.
When the Campos family went to the event they’d been invited to at the Hilton Garden Inn in Yakima, they said they faced an aggressive sales pitch from the company.
“They were hyping it up, they kept saying they would get you into the college of your dreams,” Campos said.
But something didn’t feel right.
Rather than a group seminar, each family was placed individually with a Right C3 representative, who gave a sales pitch on the company’s services. Campos said their representative pushed them to make a decision that day.
The family initially agreed to the high-pressure sales pitch and signed up for Right C3’s services. The cost was to be $38 per week for a year and a half, or just under $3,000.
But shortly after leaving, Campos said, they had second thoughts and returned to cancel. They found out that wasn’t so easy to do.
“We wanted to cancel almost immediately,” said Campos’ mom, Idalia Zamora. “She told us we’d have to wait until the next day because we were already in the system. But I don’t remember seeing any computers.”
The Campos family called the next day to get out of the agreement, but were told they could not do it over the phone. The Las Vegas-based company told the family they could cancel if they submitted forms by mail within the week. They submitted the forms, and enlisted additional assistance from Sunnyside High School Principal Ryan Maxwell, who called Right C3 to voice his disapproval.
They were finally able to get out of the agreement.
Right C3 representatives defended their business and tactics.
“We provide families with high school students the opportunity to attend a free educational group presentation followed by a personal interview with a representative of our company to help determine college admission and financial aid eligibility,” Right C3 spokesman Joseph Spiccia said in an email. “If the family would like to attend then they are encouraged to make a reservation for the date and time our team will be in their area.”
“The process is straightforward and there is nothing deceptive,” he added.
In response to the Campos incident, Spiccia wrote that company representatives “have been in communication with Principal Maxwell and we appreciate his passion for the students of SHS. We actually invited him to an upcoming workshop if he wanted to see first-hand how we help students.”
Right C3’s approach was startlingly similar to that used last summer by another company, Reno, Nev.-based College Admissions Assistance.
Copies of the letters sent by Right C3 and College Admissions Assistance are virtually identical, word for word. Asked about the similarity, Spiccia wrote that the two are different companies, although they “take a similar marketing approach but offer different solutions to the families they serve.”
The letters sent by Right C3 and College Admissions Assistance tell students they are “scheduled to participate in an educational group presentation followed by a personal interview to help determine college admission and financial aid eligibility.” The letters may give some the impression that a teacher or school counselor signed them up to attend.
Francisco Ramirez, a Heritage University admissions counselor, is very familiar with Right C3.
“They may be a legit business, but they charge a lot of money for their services,” he said.
Ramirez accompanied his sister Ruth to the same set of Yakima workshops after she received one of the invitations. He said the letter told her she was scheduled for a presentation — although she hadn’t signed up for anything.
As an admissions counselor, Ramirez was familiar with the intricacies of financial aid and scholarship assistance, so he agreed to help Ruth, a senior at Granger High School, review her college options.
Ramirez said the high-pressure sales tactics of company representatives quickly threw up a red flag. He said Right C3 representatives wanted an immediate decision, asking for $1,100 for a 2 1/2 year commitment.
“It’s a lot of money to sign off in that instance,” said Ramirez. They didn’t sign.
Ramirez said their experience mirrored that of others he found online.
Yakima School District spokeswoman Kirsten Fitterer said some local parents had received invitation letters as well. She added that her son, a senior in the Naches Valley School District, also had received a letter.
The Better Business Bureau’s website says Right C3 is not accredited by the BBB and lists 125 complaints against the company nationally in the past three years. The BBB says 56 of those complaints were closed in the past year.
The majority of the complaints, 84, were for issues regarding problems with what they called a lack of tutoring or financial aid assistance. Those were followed by 23 complaints for billing and collection practices, 13 for advertising and sales practices, three for guarantee issues and two for other issues. Of six customer reviews on the BBB website, none said they would recommend Right C3’s service.
One complaint from October, for instance, was from a parent who wanted to cancel the service because her son could not access online tutoring as promised. The mother canceled the credit card that Right C3 was billing to, but the company continued charging to a new card issued by their bank. The BBB complaint said Right C3 agreed to cancel the family’s service after the BBB intervened, but stated in its response they weren’t required to do so.
Another complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau in March said the company was taking payments out of the family’s bank account multiple times a week rather than the weekly payment, as promised. According to the BBB, Right C3 denied the claim and didn’t cancel its service.
College Admissions Assistance also is not accredited by the BBB, which says it has received 111 complaints about the company nationally in the past three years, with 32 closed in the last year.
Chelsea Maguire, BBB’s Northwest development director, said the company should have filed for a business license under Washington business licensing guidelines. However, a search in the state’s business licensing database produced no listing for the company.
State Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Alison Dempsey-Hall said no customers have filed complaints with the agency, but encouraged customers to file a complaint with the office if they feel they were victimized.
Also, federal and state laws allow for a grace period of three business days during which consumers can cancel a sale made at a temporary business location such as a hotel room or conference room, commonly known as the “cooling off rule.”
The best advice for students considering college? Local educators say they should start at their high school or nearby higher education institutions. Staff there will likely know what kind of aid or scholarships may be available.
David Wise, vice president of marketing and communications for Heritage University, said nonprofit universities, colleges and high schools won’t charge for such assistance. He said companies like Right C3 take advantage of families’ uncertainties about higher education and where to seek help.
“I would hope (families) would think of using their available resources at any school, whether it’s YVCC, Heritage, CBC,” or their high school counselors, added Oscar Verduzco, Heritage financial aid director. “I’m sure all the information they provide is available to them at no cost.”