College costs, quadrupled

Marketplace Staff May 28, 2010

College costs, quadrupled

Marketplace Staff May 28, 2010


Steve Chiotakis: A lot of parents are just like Chris Farrell — they’re looking past the summer and seeing college tuition about to smack ’em in the wallet. It’s expensive enough paying for one kid. But what if you have more than one? Say, four… all born on the same day.

Tab and Debbie Thompson of Stephenville, Texas, have been juggling doctor’s appointments, food, clothes, space — everything — in multiples of four. You can only imagine how big a challenge college has been. Tab and Debbie are here to share some stories with us. Welcome.

Tab Thompson: Well, thank you very much.

Debbie Thompson: Hello Steve.

Chiotakis: How many kids do you have?

Tab: We have four kids, and we have quadruplets — three boys and a girl. Daniel Joe Thompson, Patrick Altman Thompson, Reagan Bradford Thompson and Kayla Renee.

Chiotakis: That must’ve been quite a shock when you found out four were coming.

Tab: Well, it was. Debbie and I had been through about seven years of infertility treatment, and then, we hit the jackpot.

Chiotakis: Yes you did. Now you had think about paying for a lot of the same things for different kids, right? So, meals, and clothes, and braces and all those things four at a time.

Tab: That’s right. Rather than spread it out or maybe have some at one stage and some at another, we just had massive doses of every stage all at one time.

Chiotakis: How’d you do it?

Tab: >Well, I guess it just takes a whole lot of planning and a whole lot of budgeting. You’ve really got to watch your dollars, you’ve gotta be structured, get a plan and then stick with it.

Chiotakis: Well, we talked to a lot of folks on this program who are trying to put their kids through college or a child through college. I can’t imagine four of them going at the same time. How did you possible save for that?

Tab: Well, we knew that was coming. It’s not like somebody was going to come take some of ’em away. I mean, we had four kids from the beginning, that’s it. But college was definitely something that we were making plans for. And we did a couple of things. Texas had a program called the “Texas Tomorrow Fund.” When you buy-in, then that locks in the tuition at current price at the time that you buy it, and then it’s kind of like a savings plan that you pay so much every month. Then by the time that they finish high school, there’s enough money in there to pay for the tuition for four years of state-supported school.

Chiotakis: Debbie, let me ask you somethin’: Trying to put four kids through school, what was that like trying to save money? I mean, saving for one is enough, but four?

Debbie: Well, we knew it would be a huge job to save that money. So we pretty much started the minute they were born. And you know, you can do things like switch from your favorite brands to store brands of food and other dry goods.

Chiotakis: Maybe get the generics?

Debbie: Yes, yes! But we just saved every place we could.

Chiotakis: Now something tells me that y’all had sort of an eye on College Station from the start.

Debbie: Oh we did. I’m afraid our kids didn’t have much of an option. And we just prayed that we didn’t brainwash them. But they were all excited about A&M, and we’ve been coming to A&M from an early age, exposing them to the football games and walking through the campus. And they wanted to come.

Chiotakis: So you went from having four kids in the house to zero when they went off to college. What was that like?

Debbie: Well, now, if we’re talking about that too long, I’m going to get me a box of Kleenex. I’m still not quite used to the quiet, empty house.

Chiotakis: I’m going to ask you one question and I’m going to ask your husband as well.

Debbie: OK.

Chiotakis: What kind of financial advice would you give for families planning for college right now, or just planning for the future. I mean, looking for same kinds of organizations that you’ve found and scholarships and things?

Debbie: Right. Start early. And then, start looking around for potential scholarships that are in your area, locally. And then if your student has interest in archery or swimming or just whatever the case may be, look for scholarships that are geared towards that major and that student. There are some things out there like that, and you just have to dig and research and check with people just ahead of you.

Chiotakis: Tab, what about you?

Tab: Well, you’ve gotta be disciplined enough to start saving. You have to be realistic, I think, as well. There’s a million excuses not to start saving money. But until it becomes a priority with your family, it’s going to be difficult to do.

Chiotakis: Well, Tab and Debbie Thompson, thanks for being with us today. Congratulations to you.

Debbie: It’s nice to visit with you Steve.

Tab: Thank you for your call.

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