The family: Father works in real estate. Mother is a government planner. Combined income: $100,000. They own a home in Seattle worth $350,000, and a home-equity line of credit...

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The family: Father works in real estate. Mother is a government planner. Combined income: $100,000. They own a home in Seattle worth $350,000, and a home-equity line of credit with $52,000 available. Have one daughter, a straight-A student who entered New York University this fall, at a cost of $43,000 a year (including room, board and expenses).

How they’ll do it: Daughter’s financial-aid package includes a scholarship of $7,500, a Perkins loan of $1,500 per semester, a work-study offer worth $4,000 and a suggested Stafford loan of $3,500. That leaves $26,500 for the family to cover. “Fortunately, you don’t need all that money on Labor Day,” the father says. “You can pay some in the fall and some in January.” Unwilling to sell a car, take on a second job or saddle their daughter with debt, the parents have instead opted to take out a PLUS loan of $26,685. Having the loan helps with cash flow, and the family’s earnings are enough to pay the loan off by year’s end.

The family: Father is a truck driver, mother a bookkeeper. Older child is a junior at the UW. Younger one was accepted to Lafayette College in eastern Pennsylvania this fall. He liked its excellent mechanical-engineering program and small class size. Price tag: $38,000 a year (including room, board and expenses).

How they’ll do it: The family applied for financial aid but was offered “zippo,” the father says. The problem: Because both parents are self-employed, they have not been investing their retirement savings in a 401(k) or IRA, but rather in real estate. While 401(k) and IRA savings are not considered a family asset when computing need for financial aid, property is.

Parents decided against an equity loan on their home, since they’ll retire soon.

The son decided to turn down Lafayette and attend the UW. His schooling will be paid for with family savings, his parents’ monthly income and financial help from Grandpa.

The family: Student is on her own. She first attended $30,000-per-year Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. With a 3.8 GPA and an SAT score of 1,400, she received a $14,000 grant along with loans and a work-study assignment. When she was unable to keep up her grades, however, the grant fell to $9,000, leaving her with a $5,000 shortfall. “My parents weren’t an option,” so she dropped out, worked for AmeriCorps, bartended and finally ended up at the UW. “I can’t believe I didn’t do this right off the bat,” says the now-sophomore. “It was totally the way to go.”

How she does it: She receives a State Need Grant of $4,000, a Perkins Loan of $4,000, a Pell Grant of $4,000 and a Federal Community Service Program work spot that brings in $2,718. She also received a one-time Stafford loan of $1,948 to pay for a computer. “Fortunately, I learned to live on $70 a month when I was in AmeriCorps,” she says. “It was my boot camp for living without money.”

The family: Father in financial services. Mother not currently working. Two children. Daughter, a 4.0 student and debater, was offered scholarships at several schools but decided on Bowdoin ($40,000 a year) because she loves Maine and is drawn to the school’s environmental-studies program and cooperative learning style. Bowdoin offered no merit aid.

How they’ll do it: Her parents’ income and the savings they began when their daughter was in diapers. They started with a Uniform Gift to Minors Account; when Section 529 college savings accounts became available, they shifted their money there. “The account did really well last year,” the mom says.

To supplement, their daughter will work full time in the summer and 10 hours a week during school. The parents may also get a home-equity loan, the interest on which is tax-deductible. “We make too much for financial aid, but that doesn’t mean we can easily pull $40,000 out of savings for college,” the mom says.

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The family: Father is a landscape architect, mother a teacher and counselor. Older child is a senior at Washington State University. Younger had his heart set on the University of Oregon — because it was away from home (but not too far) and because it was a Division 1 school. Cost: $27, 574.

How they’ll do it: Parents said they would pay part but not the full tab because it seemed “financially irresponsible” to pay for an out-of-state college when their son could get the same basic curriculum in-state. “I said he could pay the difference in loans and he said, ‘Fine,’ ” the dad recalls. “That was a real heart-breaker for us, because we don’t want our kids graduating with a financial burden. It changes your perspective on what job you choose and where you live. How can you cover rent in Seattle if you have loan payments?”

A few days later, the son changed his mind. He’ll join his sister at WSU this fall. Parents will cover the $15,748 cost (including room, board and expenses) with some savings and their monthly earnings. “We live fairly frugally,” the father explains.

— Patti Jones