Paying for one college education can be a financial stretch, requiring significant savings, scholarship searches, and possibly even student loans. For families with more than one child enrolled in college, finding funding can be an even bigger burden.
What parents may not know is that a variety of colleges offer sibling discounts that cut costs for simultaneously enrolled children.
"With the increased cost of higher education and the financial strain on families, it's important that we try to help our families out in decreasing the cost of education," says Kimberly Buxton-Hamel, director of student academic and financial services at the Denver campus of Johnson and Wales University. The institution, which also has a campus in Rhode Island, takes $2,000 off annual tuition for each sibling enrolled at the same time.
A similar program is offered at Western New England University in Massachusetts, where 51 students are currently credited with $1,000 a year discounts, according to David Stawasz, the school's assistant vice president for marketing communications. Otterbein University in Ohio offers the same deal: $1,000 to simultaneously enrolled siblings, according to Vice President for Enrollment Management Jefferson Blackburn-Smith. Recently, the college enrolled 24 freshmen who already had siblings at the school, he notes.
Other colleges institute so-called "Family Grant" programs to help offset costs to a family unit. At George Washington University in Washington, D.C., a Family Grant cuts tuition in half for a qualifying younger sibling who has a brother or sister enrolled and who would otherwise be charged full tuition. In New Hampshire, St. Anselm College offers a flat $6,000 Family Grant if two siblings are enrolled, and $12,000 if three children attend the institution at the same time.
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Like the differing names, eligibility for the discounts can vary by institution. But the awards typically only apply to siblings who are dependents of their parents, and who attend the same institution together for at least part of the time they're pursuing degrees. In many programs, if one student graduates or drops out, the other sibling will no longer receive a discount.
For twins and triplets, whose enrollment presumably overlaps for the entirety of college, there are additional savings opportunities. According to a list compiled on FinAid.org, schools that cut costs for twins and triplets include West Chester University of Pennsylvania, Randolph College in Virginia, and Sterling College in Kansas.
Despite a variety of offerings, students and parents may not always be aware of the possibilities. Sibling discounts are posted on Johnson and Wales University's website, for instance, but that doesn't necessarily mean prospective families are coming across the information, Buxton-Hamel notes.
"As I researched colleges for both children, there was not a lot of information about sibling discounts," Elie said via E-mail. "I wish this was more readily available."
An older sibling's college choice may not necessarily be right for a second or third student. In Elie's case, her daughter, the younger of the two siblings, ultimately decided that Mount St. Mary's was not her best fit, since she wanted to play lacrosse at a Division III school, her mother notes.
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But she knows of other parents who reached out directly to college financial aid offices to inquire about discounts for their students, Elie says—a good first step for any parent of multiple children who hopes to secure funding.
According to Buxton-Hamel of Johnson and Wales, when it comes to discounts like these, "the big point would be to ask," she says.
Trying to fund your education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for College center.