If you've been reading my Inc column for the past 3 years or follow me on Twitter, you know that I'm on a mission to help a million people become millionaires. Your wealth is very important to me, especially since half of Americans can't come up with $400 in an emergency!
After your home, your next biggest expense is college debt. In some cases, your college debt may actually be larger than your mortgage. Tuition is big business and I'm sorry to have to break this to you, but very few people are looking out for your best interest when it comes to financial aid.
A Frank Discussion About College Financing
While there are undoubtedly others out there, I recently met with one woman who is on a personal crusade to fight back on your behalf. Charlie Javice, is the founder of Frank and offers free tools that help you estimate your financial aid package before officially applying. I had the pleasure of interviewing her and you can watch our entire interview on YouTube.
"The fact is," says Javice, "47% of eligible students fail to apply for financial aid and over 3 billion dollars goes unclaimed every year. The cost of tuition is going up and financial aid is hard to get. My team here at Frank is working hard to help get students the aid they deserve."
Her freemium model is simple. The basic tools are free and when you want more hand holding, you pay a flat rate of $500 only if Frank can deliver you at least that much or more in financial aid you qualify for. The average client is getting $7,000 per year more in financial aid because of their service. I love this performance-based pricing model.
So what does Javice want you to know that few colleges want you to know about financial aid? The first thing is that no one is specifically working to ensure you get what you deserve - not the college, nor a bank lending you money, and not even the government. But then she went deep with these three insights.
1. Always REJECT Your First Offer
Huh? Did you know you could do that? Most people blindly accept the offer of financial aid assuming that what ever is offered is (1) better than nothing and (2) probably fair. That's the equivalent of walking in off the street and paying full sticker price at the car dealership. Sure, you can do that, but why would you? Without knowing your rights, most people simply follow the expected norms and leave a ton of money on the table.
2. You Can Negotiate A Better Deal Via More Colleges
So now that you know you can negotiate a better deal, the second biggest mistake is focusing all your energy on a single college. Yes, your son or daughter may have their heart set on going to a specific school, but the first rule of negotiation is to put yourself in a position where you can walk away from the negotiation table. For the best deal, you need to let your top choice understand that you're considering multiple options and that price is, in fact, a big factor in the decision. Currently, colleges and universities are seeing drops in enrollment rates and are looking to attract more students. This is great leverage when you're at the negotiation table.
3. Colleges & Universities Will Match Competitive Offers
Back to the car dealership example, did you ever consider getting a better offer from a comparable school just so that you can have your top school match that offer? Few people take the time to do this. Let's be clear, without a company like Frank walking you through the process, you're going to spend a lot of time working through the logistics. "My father invested about 50 hours negotiating with my university," says Javice. But if you're knocking several thousand dollars per year off the cost of your education, that time may be well worth the investment in your desired outcome.
With the cost of higher education continuing to rise, now more than ever it's important to know your options so that you can get what you deserve. And as Chester Karrass reminds us, "In business as in life - you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate."