The Family: Valerie Kendall, divorced mother of two college-age daughters, works for a nonprofit organization, earning about $50,000 a year...

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The Family: Valerie Kendall, divorced mother of two college-age daughters, works for a nonprofit organization, earning about $50,000 a year and owns her Edmonds home. Ex-husband is a Texas university professor.  Her eldest daughter is a junior at Texas Tech University. She chose a state school ($16,323 tuition) to afford grad school later, since her father committed to cover the daughters’ college expenses equal to what a state school would cost. A second daughter entered the University of Southern California this fall. She earned a 3.9 GPA at Edmonds/Woodway High School.

How They’ll Do it: The second daughter’s freshman year will cost $44,500 for tuition and living expenses. She’ll pay for it with a $14,000 trust fund set up by her grandparents and three one-year scholarships she won worth $2,000, $1,000 and $1,200; a grant from USC for $2,977; a work-study job that pays $841; a federal Stafford Loan for $2,625. Her father is contributing $16,323 and her mother will make up the difference, plus pay personal expenses. After year one, Valerie Kendall will contribute $5,000 a year and take out a Plus loan of up to $20,000, for a total contribution up to $40,000 over the daughter’s entire college career. She is “going down there with the hope and prayer that she can get more grants,” Kendall says. “My values are that education is so important I’m willing to go out on a limb a little bit and take some risks for this.”

The Family: Lou Willner, recently retired Seattle School District administrator, divorced from real-estate agent Kate Willner, and their two college-age children, Eva, 22, and Matt, 20. They live in South Seattle and both children attended Northwest Yeshiva High School, a religious school on Mercer Island. Lou Willner, financially responsible for their education, saved about $50,000, believing the kids would attend state schools, but both decided to leave Washington.

How They’ll Do It: Eva went to Bellevue Community College for two years, then to Jerusalem to study in a language program affiliated with Hebrew University. Matt studied for a year in Israel and a year at Bellevue Community College, then decided he wanted to go to college in New York with his friends and enrolled in a community college to establish state residency. (Education and living expenses this year: likely $20,000.) Matt hopes to transfer to Queens College or Baruch College. The cost is more than Willner planned for so he’s taking out college loans. “Without an education you don’t get very far in society, so we make the sacrifices. I’d rather have them happy and educated than unhappy and uneducated.” But Willner wants the kids to contribute, even if it takes longer than the traditional four years.

The Family: Shaonta Allen, 18, is the third of four children. Single mom Deborah Northern works as a staff trainer for an education agency; dad, a retired veteran, lives in Seattle and also is involved in Shaonta’s life. Her oldest sister is an executive assistant, her older brother attends Seattle Central Community College, and her younger brother is a sophomore at Kent-Meridian High School, where Shaonta graduated in 2005 with a 3.85 GPA. She entered the University of Washington summer quarter on a full scholarship.

How they’ll do it: From elementary school, people told Shaonta she was bright and somehow would find the funds for college, despite her family’s low income. Beginning in fourth grade, she received the African Americans for an Academic Society Award for outstanding academic work for five consecutive years. At Cleveland High School she was introduced to UW’s Upward Bound — a college-prep program serving first-generation to college and/or economically disadvantaged students at Cleveland, Franklin and Nathan Hale high schools. After transferring to Kent-Meridian she petitioned to stay with Upward Bound, which guided her through the financial-aid process. For her part, Shaonta maintained a high GPA while taking Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. She applied to six schools, was accepted to five. She chose the UW because she was familiar with it. And, she received scholarships and grants totaling $19,438 for each of her four years in school. These included a $7,000 Costco diversity scholarship, a Washington Achievers Program Scholarship worth up to $6,800 a year but only $1,000 for her the first year, a Federal Supplement Grant of $100, an undergraduate tuition exemption worth $3,096, a federal Pell grant of $2,600, a state needs grant of $4,774 and an undergraduate university grant for $868.

Her advice: “Don’t give up. There’s money out there. Stay focused, apply for scholarships. Apply for your financial aid on time.”