How to pay for college

These three families got creative about funding their education. Here's how they did it.

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Strategy: Take what's coming to you
The Srinivasans
East Brunswick, N.J.

M.K. Srinivasan, owner of a communications firm, and his wife, Renuka, who runs her own dance studio, figured out how to help finance their sons' college education the same way they run their businesses: by paying attention to details and making the most of every opportunity offered.

Both of their sons - Vikranth (left), 21, and Rahul, 19 - attend Drexel University in Philadelphia. Price tag: $45,000 a year each. But the Srinivasans had only about $40,000 in their 529 plan and initially got less than $5,000 in aid. So they signed up for Drexel's no-interest installment plan to make it easier to pay the bills out of current income. When Rahul enrolled, the family was able to take advantage of a sibling discount of $1,400 a student and scored an extra $1,000 grant just for submitting the financial aid application early. Their total aid package now: $28,000 a year.

Rahul is also taking advantage of Drexel's co-op program, in which students work full-time in three six-month stints during college. A business major, Rahul is using the $13,000 he'll make at an Internet firm this semester to help with his living expenses. "By the time I graduate, I'll have experience with three companies," he says. "That will look really good to employers."
NEXT: Strategy: Pick schools that pay
Last updated March 19 2009: 6:46 AM ET
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