Personal finance

Multiple kids in college: How this family did it

The Rogers family is a tight-knit group, with three boys, Cameron, Jackson and Caeden. When the Rogers were planning their family, they wanted their kids to be born close together so “the boys could be best friends.” 

But raising three kids just a few years apart wasn’t easy for the middle-class couple, who weathered plenty of storms along the way.

“At one point, John came home four days a month,” Cynthia said. “So for many years I was like a single parent. Basically I was it.”

John and Cynthia Rogers

Having kids so close in age also made saving for college a little harder, and the kids knew they’d have to take out student loans.

That’s where CommonBond stepped in. The family applied for the CommonBond $10K Parent Perks Scholarship, which helps families who have multiple children in college afford the cost.

Winning the CommonBond scholarship helped Jackson, a senior at the University of Toledo, ease his financial worries.

“When I told Jackson that we had won this scholarship, literally his shoulders dropped because he just had this burden lifted from him,” she said.

While the Rogers family was lucky enough to get the scholarship, they also took many smart steps to be able to afford multiple kids in college. Here’s what you can learn from their example.

How to pay for multiple kids in college

Filling out the FAFSA is the first step whether you have one or multiple kids in college. The FAFSA helps determine what federal aid your children qualify for, including student loans and grants. Many colleges use information from the FAFSA to decide what kind of grants and scholarships they give out.

You are required to fill out the FAFSA every year which is helpful for families who have a major life change, for example, a loss of income. The FAFSA takes family size into account when deciding how much you can afford to pay for college. If you have multiple kids in college at the same time, the FAFSA considers that in its calculations.

When you fill out the FAFSA, the form tells you how much your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is. The EFC is an annual figure that the government expects you to pay. If your EFC is $15,000, it will stay $15,000 unless you have a major income fluctuation from one year to the next.

Jackson Rogers

If your second child enters college, the EFC will stay $15,000. But it means that your children could now qualify for more aid than they were before. They’ll have to take out fewer student loans and will likely be more eligible for grants and scholarships.

Before your children choose a college, find out if their financial aid policy says they’ll cover anything beyond the EFC.This policy varies depending on the college so it’s vital to research before your children enroll.

Before your kids take out federal student loans, see what your private options are. If you have good credit, you may qualify for a lower interest rate through private lenders. Plus, CommonBond offers a $500 bonus to parents who cosign CommonBond loans for multiple children. That can buy a set of books for the whole semester.

If your kids are going to the same college, call the financial aid office and ask if there’s a sibling discount. Some of these may be advertised, but it also doesn’t hurt to call and double check. For example, at George Washington University, the sibling who enrolls second receives 50% off their tuition. Gonzaga University offers a 10% tuition discount to the older sibling when two siblings are enrolled. Roger Williams University in Rhode Island provides a 10% discount to both siblings if two are enrolled at the same time. 

It’s never too early to start planning for college, especially if you know you’ll have multiple children in college at the same time. A 529 plan allows your family to start saving pre-tax for eventual college expenses.

If your kids are still in high school, encourage them to take AP or IB classes to earn college credit without paying for classes. Some students can also take community college credits in the summers to earn even more credit.

Caeden Rogers

The Rogers wanted their kids to go away to school to receive the full college experience, but they still chose an in-state college. In-state tuition at public universities is almost always less expensive than a private college or an out-of-state public college.  

Another potential way to save is encouraging your kids to pick an in-state school. They may be eligible for more state grants and scholarships and will likely have cheaper transportation expenses.But students shouldn't shy away from applying to private colleges, which may offer better financial aid packages if you qualify. Talk to a college counselor early on to see what their best options are.

To learn more, watch our full profile on the Rogers family.

photos by Jesse Burke

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