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UnBroke creates a new marketplace benefiting both colleges and students by facilitating tuition negotiation.

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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

We have two targets: (1) Students and families seeking to reduce the burden of tuition costs. In particular, low income and 1st generation students whose primary concern in choosing a college gravitates towards the cost above all else. (2) Colleges seeking to both reduce the attrition rate and recruitment costs after sending out acceptance letters.

Project Overview:

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UnBroke Value Propositions:
  • For the Student: UnBroke offers students technology products and professional services that will reduce college tuition costs.
  • For the Negotiator: UnBroke opens up doors to help students get into college and thereby creates a marketplace for individuals to create value for themselves.
  • For the College: UnBroke pioneers new channels of communication so that colleges connect with the students they're looking for.

UnBroke's Mission: To significantly negotiate down the cost of college making it more affordable for students, and to provide a new marketplace for colleges to recruit at lower costs and fill seats with the candidates they want. Typically colleges hold the majority of the decision power in an accepted student's tuition cost. Our team conducted interviews with high school college counselors, parents, and after school program professionals. What became clear is that some adults did not believe in their abilities to negotiate on behalf of the student, whereas others did and were able to negotiate annual tuition costs down to anywhere up to $20k in part by uncovering untapped resources.

The power of negotiation is crucial, hence the creation of UnBroke: an organization that  either provides expert negotiators or educates individuals close to the student to negotiate down the cost of tuition. Based on an understanding of the student's story (academic history, community, financial background, etc.) negotiators are empowered to represent the students effectively and decrease the tuition price. 

So, here is our most frequently asked question...  
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Check out ~30 pages in the following Google Docs to further explore our idea's user journeys, personas, business model roll-out, business model revenue drivers, research, and prototype iterations:

  • Personas and User Journey (8 pages):  Please click on the following Google Doc for a detailed description of the various users of UnBroke as well as a more in-depth look at the User Journey beyond what is provided above.
  • Business Model Roll-out (5 pages): Please click on the following  Google Doc for an expansive, overview of the 4 phases and their various goals, timing, and investments needed to unfurl UnBroke as early as this coming March. 
  • Business Model Revenue (4 pages + 1 spreadsheet): Input will be generated from 5 identified streams explained further in the following Google Doc utilizing data from this Google Sheet for the Finder's Fee revenue calculations.
  • Prototype Iterations and User Research (10 pages): Examples of our multiple prototype iterations for the UnBroke Homepage and UnBroke Scorecard as well as user research can be found in this Google Doc. The final iteration of the UnBroke Homepage can be found here.

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Further Applications of UnBroke

  • UnBroke's open-source API could provide comprehensive and rich datasets that illuminate opportunities within the higher ed ecosystem. 
  • UnBroke could issue college negotiator certificates as continuing education opportunities for adults in a myriad of industries.
  • UnBroke could improve the college payment process by acting as a short-term financial intermediary and issuing microloans.
  • UnBroke could build an additional marketplace of tuition donors that sponsor individuals on a charitable giving basis.
  • Why not make colleges apply to students? Through UnBroke, we could do just that.
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What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Through a combination of online surveys and interviews we will seek to uncover: (1) The triggers for families and students to use this type of service and under what conditions. (2) The shoo-ins and pitfalls during tuition negotiation by speaking to college counselors, parents, etc. (3) A survey exploring which of the three negotiator routes a prospective would choose (full discretion, last look, or DIY negotiator).

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

What steps are we missing in order to take this idea to market? Any suggestions for tools that would help alleviate our projected costs? What specific types of experiments might we conduct to further uncover the entire student's financing journey? Any thoughts on ensuring human-centered design is very welcome!

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • A student collaboration
  • An Individual

Are you interested in the Path to Pitching track we've developed for this challenge?

  • No

Evaluation results

63 evaluations so far

1. Does this idea make college more accessible, especially for low income students in the U.S.?

Yes! - 82.5%

To a degree - 12.7%

Not that I can tell - 4.8%

2. Does this idea think beyond current cost structures of college and activate new sectors or partners?

Yes! - 87.3%

It's attempting to - 7.9%

Not that I can tell - 4.8%

3. How excited are you about this idea?

I'm so excited I just can't hide it! - 84.1%

I'm pretty neutral in my excitement level - 11.1%

I don't feel very excited about this idea. - 4.8%


Join the conversation:

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Congrats on your winning idea Lauren and team! What an amazing journey it has been since the beginning of the Refinement Phase. We excited to see how this innovative idea can build new pathways for low-income families to afford college. Looking ahead to the next step, we would love for you to share your story in the upcoming Higher Ed Impact Phase. The Impact Phase is a space where the OpenIDEO community can share updates on how our projects are progressing beyond the challenge. For reference, here's a template for writing an Impact phase story: Well done UnBroke team!

Photo of Lauren Brown

Thank you so very much! What a truly tremendous journey it has been. Eriks, Bryan, Ellis, and I could not be more appreciative of the continued guidance, feedback, and support from IDEO, UBS, and the broader community. Our idea became all the stronger for it.

The challenge fused together the team's personal interests in making education broadly accessible and human-centered solutions allowing us to explore areas we are all very passionate about. We so valued the opportunity to learn more about IDEO's process as we have always believed in the importance of community driven solutions.

Uncovering a new market that significantly reduced the cost of college, and for low-income families in particular, was certainly the most rewarding. It was fascinating to see our insight bubble up not only by listening closely to stakeholders in the higher-ed space, but recruiting players outside of the conventional community to provide a fresh and critical perspective. We're excited to reflect on our journey, share our story, and define the next steps for UnBroke!

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