It is hard to believe the 25th anniversary of CollegeAdvantage has come and gone. My wife, Christine, and I are retired elementary school teachers as well as empty nesters. Twenty-six years ago, we were raising Jim Jr., Lindsey Ann, and Elizabeth, who goes by Betsy. Being a middle-class family, we needed to plan how to pay for our kids to go to college. We knew that there would be 11 straight years of our children going to college, and during two of those years, we would have two kids in college at the same time.
My father, also named James, was a retired school teacher in his late 70s. He read about CollegeAdvantage in the newspaper and told me about it. Dad grew up in Columbus, Ohio, during the Depression and worked his way through Ohio State University in the 1930s. He was in classes with Jesse Owens. It took Dad six years to earn his bachelor’s degree and then he entered the teaching profession. He encouraged my wife and me to invest in the CollegeAdvantage program.
So my wife and I enrolled our kids in the program in the early 1990s. With each paycheck, we went to the bank and deposited money into a savings account we called our college fund. Then each year, we took money out of the account and paid into our eldest son’s 529 plan account. By the time Jim Jr. had finished third grade, we had the equivalent to four years of college tuition in his fund.
Next, we continued taking money out of each paycheck to save for Lindsey and Betsy’s college years. By the time Lindsey was in sixth grade, we had enough to cover her four years of college tuition. Then it was time to focus on our youngest, Betsy, and we continued to save for her.
Fast forward: Our oldest, Jim Jr., graduated from high school, and he knew we had been saving for his college expenses. When we showed him the CollegeAdvantage investment in his name, he had tears of happiness in his eyes, knowing that he did not have to borrow money to go to college. He had a partial academic scholarship to Urbana University and we used some of his CollegeAdvantage account to pay the rest. He decided to transfer to nearby Wright State University to major in business administration. Over the next three years, he continued to work in the summer and we continued to use his CollegeAdvantage account to pay Wright State. He earned his B.S. in three-and-one-half years and still had over $7,000 unused in his account. He landed a position with National City Bank and started his career.
When our middle child, Lindsey, graduated from high school, she enrolled at Mt. Vernon Nazarene University in Mt. Vernon, Ohio. She decided to study business and marketing. Lindsey worked summer jobs and had a small academic scholarship. She also worked at the university as a dorm resident assistant and even was editor of the college yearbook. Lindsey did very well academically and graduated a semester early. We did use up all of her account as she graduated with honors and debt free.
We were now in our eighth year of having kids in college. Betsy, our youngest, earned an academic/golf scholarship to Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tenn. Eighty percent of her fees was covered by her scholarship. We used her CollegeAdvantage account to supplement the scholarship. Betsy continued her fine academic achievement there and earned All-Conference - Golf and Academic All-American Honors at Trevecca. For Betsy’s senior year, we transferred the $7,000 that was left in Jim Jr.’s account to her account. Betsy graduated with a B.S. degree in education. She was debt free and began teaching in Nashville. Our 11 years of college were over! We made it.
My father, who encouraged us to do the CollegeAdvantage program, lived to age 80. He passed away knowing we had paid up the four years of college for our oldest and were well on our way to investing in four years of tuition for our middle child. He knew he had given us some smart advice and was pleased that we listened to him and followed through by investing in the CollegeAdvantage fund.
Where are our kids now?
Jim Jr. is married, and he and his wife, Jen, have two young girls, ages 5 and 2. Jim Jr. is a debt counselor for area Wright-Patt Credit Unions. His wife is an instructor at Miami Jacobs Career College in Troy, Ohio. He earned a MBA degree three years ago. He has opened 529 plan accounts for their two children.
Lindsey is in marketing at the corporate Wendy’s in Columbus. She is married to a finance supervisor. His name is also James. They have a three-year-old and now a one-month-old. Lindsey and James have opened a CollegeAdvantage account for both their children.
Our youngest, Betsy, now teaches social studies in Columbus. She is presently working on her master’s degree. She is not married. Perhaps she is looking for a wise man named James …
James & Christine Beaver