In a Nutshell: More than 350,000 prospective college students have used Frank to apply for financial aid and find the right school. The platform simplifies the federal student loan process and connects candidates to additional assistance while helping them discover the best opportunities given their financial status and career goals. Choosing a path that yields practical results is the key to student loans not becoming a burden later in life. And Frank helps students quickly solve challenges and use other aid to their advantage.
Many prospective U.S. college students who need help with financing start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the U.S. Department of Education’s system for disbursing grants.
FAFSA is an entry point into a federal assistance program, whose application process is complex and cumbersome. In fact, it may even dissuade deserving individuals from completing the form and qualifying for support.
Students — and parents — who have struggled through the sometimes hours-long FAFSA application process find Frank to be a breath of fresh air. Frank was founded in 2016 by Wharton graduate Charlie Javice, who wanted to build a platform that simplified the federal student loan application process. It leverages technology and transparency to bring completion time down from hours to just minutes.
But Frank doesn’t stop there. One of the big problems with FAFSA is that it exists in a bit of a vacuum. At best, it’s a challenge for aid applicants to gain insight into other potential sources of assistance and or find out if their college decisions are in their long-term best interests.
Frank is a one-stop shop for student financial aid and resources. It connects applicants with opportunities and helps them weigh their options in the context of their potential.
“Frank helps students figure out what they want to do and then find programs at a price that aligns with their value,” Javice said. “If you’re basing your career path on the amount of debt you incurred getting your degree, that’s just completely the opposite of what you could be doing if you had the right information from the start.”
Offering FAFSA Assistance and a Financial Aid Marketplace
Student debt has become a drag on the U.S. economy and it has delayed people’s ability to purchase a home and start families. Frank aims to mitigate those trends and create opportunities for the growing number of nontraditional students searching for a path forward in a transforming economy.
“I believe the root cause of bad student debt is the dropout problem — the folks who suffer most are the ones who start school and do a year or two but don’t end up with a degree,” she said. “At the same time, what we see in times of recession is that going back to school and getting upskilled or reskilled is one of the best ways for people to sustain their livelihoods.”
The key is seeing that strategy pay off, and Frank makes the first step easier by automating the FAFSA process at no cost to the user.
“I would say the government version of FAFSA feels like a colonoscopy — so get prepared, you’ll need some time,” Javice said. “Our system is a little bit different. We take a picture of your tax returns and do all the tax math for you. You give us your list of schools, and we can help you think about more affordable options. And then you submit and sign — in about five minutes.”
“We started with FAFSA, and we now offer the whole gamut of financial aid in the marketplace — including information about state aid, workforce development, and scholarships,” Javice said.
Resources Aimed at Today’s Diverse Student Population
Frank offers more opportunities in its resource section, where Javice and her team explain the FAFSA process in detail and introduce users to the broader aid marketplace. That includes information on work study, aid for military and medical personnel, and even support strategies for non-U.S. citizens.
“The one thing we don’t touch is private student loans,” Javice said. “The reason why is our population is mostly subprime, and over 97% of private loans require a guarantor and a prime credit score. So we’ve stayed away from those — and we also believe there are better sources of funds.”
To help users make the best decisions, the platform provides content on budgeting and financial management combined with information on career discovery and educational success strategies for traditional and non-traditional students.
And today, more than ever, Frank’s comprehensiveness plays an essential role as students from all walks of life seek the benefits of post-secondary education and training.
“About 70% of our users are adult learners, which is awesome and reflective of who’s going to college today in America,” Javice said.
That group includes many who come to higher education from lower-wage jobs or with credit scores that limit their options.
“First-generation college students comprise 49% of our users, more than 40% are minorities, and we’re in the teens when it comes to veterans,” Javice said. “And as a female founder, my favorite part is that about 68% of the individuals who use our platform are women. We’re very proud that our product speaks to women in a way that resonates with them.”
Build an Educational Success Strategy on Any Budget
Frank has successfully helped people find ways to fund their college education and set themselves up for a brighter financial future. And many of those people go on to help others after pursuing roles in nursing, healthcare, and allied health.
“That just makes my heart warm, helping people that are going from things like minimum wage retail into new career paths that are so important and so understaffed,” Javice said.
That’s also why Frank aims to make the entire process easier.
“We have the ability to recognize other sources of aid, like scholarships, state aid, appeals, and workforce development, based on your location and where you’re studying,” Javice said. “You don’t have to tell your story over and over again — it just works.”
And that means it’s easier to filter down possibilities into choices that bring the most practical benefit. The process also offers a negotiating advantage in an environment that lacks consumer niceties.
That’s because pricing in higher education is largely opaque, and when there’s no clear understanding of costs, computing potential benefit is nearly impossible.
Tuition is only part of the picture, and other costs can change drastically from year to year. It’s tackling the problem after the fact that puts so many students in binds they can’t get out of.
Frank helps settle those money matters upfront. On the horizon is a degree service that will enable students to obtain lower-cost credits at schools outside their home institutions.
“Thinking about how to pay for college should happen at the beginning of the student journey,” Javice said. “If you want to change someone’s trajectory, that’s the point where you can do it.”