When Dan Cassidy, 26, graduated from high school in Santa Rosa, Calif. in 1974, the question wasn’t whether to go to college, but how to pay for it. “I started hammering away at the financial aid office,” he recalls of his early years at the University of San Francisco, which at the time had a $5,000 tuition. “Then I started looking into scholarships and learned about the private sector funds available.”
Among the oddities he found were scholarships for those interested in calf-roping and golf course turf management. Help’s available for Harvard students named Anderson, Murphy, Borden and Pennoyer; Wellesley aids women 26 and under who want to study in Europe and promise to stay single while doing so. Cassidy himself got more than $17,000 in grants, enabling him to earn two B.S. degrees and an M.A. in chemistry before enrolling in 1980 in the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine.
Two years ago he decided to go into business spreading his wealth of information. Working out of the San Rafael, Calif. apartment he shares with his wife, Didi, he formed the National Scholarship Research Service. It now boasts a suite of offices, a staff of 20 and 14 computers, which list 50,000 scholarships worth $1 billion. Customers submit a $35 fee and a form detailing their ethnic origin, religious affiliation and scholastic achievements and interests. In three weeks they get a printout listing an average of 35 scholarships for which they may qualify, along with tips on how to apply. To date 15,000 students have sought NSRS help, and last year the firm grossed $270,000. Cassidy, the son of a masonry contractor, pays himself $2,000 a month. Though much of what his outfit supplies can be found in library financial aid books, his service “saves time,” Cassidy says. Not for him, though. To cope with demand, he’s had to take a leave from school.