Rob and Sam Fatzinger of Bowie, Maryland, have sent seven kids to college without a single cent of debt, and they’re on track to do the same for their six younger kids.

That’s 13 kids going to college debt free—all on a combined income of $110,000 a year.

While their kids do pay for college themselves, none of them—at least none of the older seven who have gone to college—have taken out student loans for their undergrad degrees. The Fatzingers attribute this to teaching their kids hard work and smart saving.


Courtesy of the Fatzinger family

“They’ve been told to save since they were 12. ‘Don’t buy that. You need to save up for a car.’ And then after they got their car, it was, ‘Don’t spend that. You need to save up for your cellphone or for college,’” said Sam Fatzinger, who homeschools her kids through high school. “Now I don’t even have to say anything because the older kids say it to the younger ones.”

She and her husband are frugal by nature, but they honed the skill out of necessity. Sam became pregnant with their first child on their honeymoon, and they learned to live off one income from the get-go. Initially, this was $40,000 a year. Over time, they’ve seen their income rise to $110,000, but they still try to live off about $60,000 annually. The result is their seven-bedroom home is paid off and Rob is on track to retire before 65.

Sam estimates that each of their seven children who have gone to college had about $5,000 saved before freshman year, though one of their sons—a saver among savers—had $9,000 put away. The kids all work odd jobs starting at age 12 and upgrade to after-school jobs when they’re old enough. Once in college, they continue working, all managing part-time jobs during the school year and clocking between 40 and 60 hours of weekly work during the summers. Year-round, they also do what Sam calls “pick-up work,” which ranges from babysitting and dog watching to snow shoveling and lawn mowing.

This money, combined with a one-time $5,000 gift from a grandparent to each child, has been enough to pay for tuition, books, gas for commuting, and all other expenses. Each Fatzinger child has kept tuition costs down by attending a combination of community college and state schools in their home state of Maryland. For the first two years, all kids attend nearby Anne Arundel Community College. After those first two years, they transfer to state universities such as Towson University or the University of Maryland, where in-state tuition is slightly higher than community college, but still lower than going to a private university or an out-of-state school. Tuition and expenses are offset with financial aid, senatorial and delegate scholarships—which are granted by Maryland’s senators and members of its House of Delegates—and private scholarships. “Go online and search for ‘scholarships for people who like [blank],’” advises Sam. “It could be anything from field hockey to history to World War II re-enactments. It might be $500 or $1,000 or even $200, but that really adds up.”

So far, all the Fatzinger kids have lived at home while at community college, but a few have moved on or near campus once transferring to a four-year university. While one worked an extra summer job to save $10,000 to live on campus, others have found it cheaper to live off campus in group situations they hear about through friends and community organizations.

The Fatzingers’ money-saving techniques may seem drastic, but the family is proof that there are always options for saving and paying for college.

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