How One Couple Is Funding College for Their Four Kids

Matt and Suellen Sharp are hoping to help their quadruplets graduate from college with as little debt as possible.

(Image credit: Matthew Allen Photography)

Matt Sharp graduated from college debt-free, and he believes that gave him a considerable leg up when he started his career. “I bought a condo right out of college. I certainly would not have been able to do that had I been servicing college debt,” says Sharp, 38, who lives in Columbus, Ohio. So when he and his wife, Suellen, 36, had quadruplets in 2013, they opened an Ohio CollegeAdvantage 529 college-savings plan for each daughter. Matt, an actuary for an insurance company, and Suellen, a part-time occupational therapist, have accumulated about $60,000 in each plan so far, with a goal of eventually saving enough to allow their children to exit college debt-free.

Part of the 529’s appeal for the Sharps is that like many other states, Ohio offers a state income tax break to residents who use their state-sponsored plan; Ohio taxpayers can deduct up to $4,000 of contributions per beneficiary each year. The plans are also flexible: If one daughter ends up with a full-ride scholarship, the Sharps can redirect the funds from her account to cover their other kids’ expenses.

Matt estimates that if the girls go to in-state public schools, the Sharps will need to save roughly half a million dollars total to cover their expenses. Such figures can be daunting, but he encourages other parents to put away whatever amount they can. “Any little bit helps,” he says. “If you can satisfy one-third or one-half of expenses, that’s that much less that your child has to carry.”

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Lisa Gerstner
Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Lisa has spent more than15 years with Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and heads up the magazine’s annual rankings of the best banks, best rewards credit cards, and financial-services firms with the best customer service. She reports on a variety of other topics, too, from retirement to health care to money concerns for millennials. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.