Planning for college for multiple kids

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 Q. I know I’m not going to be able to save enough to send my four kids to college. The two oldest, twins, are in 11th grade and they’re crazy smart. I know having both at the same time will help some with financial aid, but I’m trying to decide if I should have them apply only to easier schools, which are less expensive and more likely to give scholarships, or if I should let them apply wherever they want. Help!

A. There is no one right answer to your college funding challenge. There are only alternatives.

One alternative is to let your children apply wherever they want, said Michael Maye, a certified financial planner and certified public accountant with MJM Financial in Gillette.

He offers Harvard as an example.

“Assuming they were to apply and be accepted at Harvard, it might seem cost prohibitive for your twins as gross tuition is $63,000-ish a kid per year,” Maye said. “However, according to Harvard’s web site, families with students on scholarship pay an average only $11,500 annually.”

In addition, Harvard’s web site goes on to say that families with incomes below $65,000 paid nothing, while families with incomes between $65,000 and $150,000 would contribute between zero and 10 percent income depending on circumstances, Maye said.

Another school of thought — pun intended — is to use community college for the first two years to keep costs ultra-low, he said.

“Assuming the student has excellent grades, they can they transfer to a top school for their final two years,” he said.

Or, they could choose middle-of-the-road schools, which may be more likely to offer larger scholarships for top students.

Maye recommends you start studying up on costs. Check out The College Board’ s web site for a breakdown of college costs based on a variety of factors.

Remember that while you want to help with tuition costs, your children can always borrow for college, but you can’t borrow for retirement. If your financial situation allows, you can always take over payments of some of their loans if you want to help them pay it off.

Good luck!

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This post first appeared in March 2015. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.