The 26-year-old founder of a startup that helps college students save thousands on tuition says you should treat financial aid like a job offer: Always negotiate

Charlie JaviceCourtesy of Frank

  • Charlie Javice is the CEO and founder of Frank, an online platform that helps students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
  • To date, Frank has helped more than 300,000 students receive $7.5 billion in federal financial aid.
  • Javice said students should treat their first financial aid award letter as a job offer: "Always negotiate, always advocate for yourself."

To understand the arduous financial aid application process, 26-year-old Charlie Javice sat with 1,000 South Bronx students filling out Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, at the end of 2016. Her field work turned into Frank.

Frank is an online FAFSA aid that helps students complete the 108-question application process in as little as four minutes. To date, Frank has helped more than 300,000 students receive $7.5 billion in financial aid.

When a student is approved for financial aid they receive an award letter from the college or university with an offered amount. Javice told Business Insider it isn't uncommon for schools to give lowball offers on financial aid, so students should always appeal.

"[N]ever accept the first offer, view it as a job offer. Always negotiate, always advocate for yourself," she said.

"You have different types of categories of schools in this country," Javice said. "Basically you have your top-tier, and they are going to do anything if they've selected you to have you - that's super important. And they're going to match other top-tier schools. Then you have the middle-tier and in this day in age, the middle-tier is fighting for enrollment the same way the lower tiers are fighting for enrollment."

Javice said universities have a formula to financially break even: A university makes more money if a student attends and doesn't make any money if a student rejects acceptance. Javice said over 20% of financial aid dollars are left for students who appeal their aid.

Read more: A 26-year-old founder has a solution to what Bill Gates calls an 'unnecessary roadblock' to college - and her startup is helping students get thousands off their tuition

"So it's kind of like a job offer. HR has invested so much in you to get you and get your offer out, the sum cost, that they're willing to go up a few thousand dollars just by asking," Javice said. "And that will be better net-net for them and for you because they don't have to redo a search and waste all that time again."

Appealing a financial aid letter awarded a University of Pennsylvania student $59,000 for his freshman and sophomore years after he was originally told he was ineligible for financial aid by the university, Business Insider's Abby Jackson previously reported.

The student almost gave up his spot in the Class of 2019 because his family couldn't afford to send him to a private Ivy league institution, Jackson reported. He turned to an online startup that advised him to appeal his financial aid - which he successfully did.

Javice said: "You can do it with us, you can do it by yourself, but super important: always reject your first aid offer unless you have a full ride and it covers living expenses. But, I mean, definitely appeal."

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