Tackling the Student Debt Problem Head-On

When Charlie Javice graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, she was struck by the number of people she knew who were choosing jobs they didn’t really want.

Many of her peers did not have the freedom to look for work they were passionate about because those jobs didn’t pay enough to make a dent in their student loans. Instead, many chose jobs with higher salaries just so they could start digging themselves out of debt.

Indeed, student debt—which has reached $1.5 trillion—is among the biggest challenges facing Javice’s generation. So the 27-year-old came up with a way to help students cut down on the amount they amassed or avoid it completely.

In 2016, Javice launched Frank, a company that helps students find sources of financial aid. Frank works by giving students a simplified way of filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the form used to determine how much financial aid students qualify for. The FAFSA has more than 100 questions, and Javice remembers being overwhelmed when she had to answer them herself. “The whole thing never made sense to me or my parents, who both have master’s degrees,” she says. By making the process easier, Frank assists students in securing aid that they may have missed otherwise.

Frank helps students with other aspects of the financial aid process too, such as preparing letters to appeal a financial aid decision and ask for more money. Since the company was founded, Frank has helped 350,000 students find $7 billion in aid for free.

Creating a business in the education space was a natural for Javice. Her mom was a teacher; her grandparents are Holocaust survivors who told her that the most important thing in life is education “because it’s the thing you can take with you regardless of where you are in the world,” she says.

In 2017, Javice raised $15.7 million in venture capital financing for Frank. For now, she’s excited about helping new graduates pursue their passion without the burden of crippling debt. “I saw a big opportunity to build a mission-driven, impactful business that would help people achieve their dreams,” she says.

—Tamara E. Holmes

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