5 ways to 'hack' your college tuition in 2021

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NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- The new year has finally arrived, and with it comes a lengthy to-do list for college-bound students.

Students planning to enroll in college or take college courses in 2021 will not only be deciding on schools over the next few months, but will also be navigating the financial aid process.

And while the undertaking can be a stressful one, it doesn’t have to be, Charlie Javice, the CEO and founder of Frank — a business aimed at making college more affordable — told 1010 WINS on Wednesday.

Javice, whose own experience securing a financial aid package for college inspired her to help others do the same, shared her top five tips for cutting costs with 1010 WINS:

1. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) accurately and on time.

“As 2021 gets started and people ramp up thinking about school and how to save, the earlier the better,” Javice said, calling FAFSA “the gateway to all financial aid.” “It’s just really important that students complete FAFSA, and do it as soon as possible, to not leave money on the table.”

2. Negotiate your tuition bill.

“A lot of people just never even bother to negotiate or appeal, but what they always forget is that a tuition bill is kind of like a job offer,” Javice said. “You should always be negotiating it, and there’s always a good reason to get more financial aid.”

“For example, if you have another offer from a comparable school, and you’re getting more aid, schools can match each other’s offers, similar to jobs,” she added. “That, I would say, is the one not many people know about.”

3. Start taking college credits as soon as possible.

“If you’re a senior right now, or basically, somebody who is looking for a career change and going back to school, you could start taking college credits as soon as possible, and doing it at a severe discount to the course price of the school you’re about to enroll in, or currently enrolled in,” Javice said.

In recent weeks, Frank partnered with around 400 colleges across the U.S. to launch “Classfinder," a product that helps students enroll in online classes.

“Colleges have put their classes online for students to enroll in as easy as one click,” Javice said. “There’s a start and an end date, and you can take the course at your own pace, and you get a real college credit.”

“Transfer credits are now a really big part of how people can hack their college tuition and not have to take out student debt at that same amount,” she explained.

4. Work and learn remotely.

“While it is extremely unlikely one can pay for tuition based on working a job alone, any little bit can help, so interest doesn’t accrue on student loans,” Javice said. Working students can also develop “real-world” skills that will look good on job applications, she noted.

5. Apply for financial aid early, and don’t stress.

“There’s millions of students who go through this process,” Javice said. “While it’s super daunting, try not to stress about it.”

“The best you can do is just get your paperwork in… because aid is typically first-come, first served,” she added. “You can always edit your form later if somebody catches a mistake… so just be sure to get it in as soon as possible.”