Parents Grapple With Quintuplets' College Costs

When the Pisner quintuplets were born in June 1983, their parents had an army of volunteers, eager to help out with the five infants.

But now the children are 18 years old and their parents, Pam and Dan Pisner, are alone, handling a common problem that is compounded by having five children all the same age: college costs.

The Time Has Come

They spent much of their savings on fertility treatments, grappling for years with doctor bills, until Pam got pregnant and found out she wasn't just having one baby.

A week after their babies were born, the Pisners had a press conference and a reporter asked what they were going to do about college. At the time it seemed scary and a long way off, they remembered. But now, they're doing the math.

Dan is a computer network consultant and Pam is an administrator at the FDA. They say their combined annual income is in the range of $50,000.They estimate it will cost $300,000 to educate their children: four sons, Michael, Ian, Devin and Elliot and one daughter, Shira.

Shira, Michael, Ian and Devin are all going to the University of Maryland. Elliot will be the only one attending Salisbury State University. He wanted a smaller school and his girlfriend attends the college.

The University of Maryland will cost about $15,000 a year tuition, not including room and board and books and living on campus. The children received modest aid packages from the universities: a Stafford loan of $2,625 each, and work-study stipends of $1,600.

Disappointing Aid Package

Salisbury State said it would cover the tuition for all five, but only if all were enrolled there, and if only they all stayed. The Pisners thought that was too much a burden for the children.

The family applied for financial aid, but did not get much because last year's tax return showed they made more than usual.

Part of that may be from a Kia car commercial the family shot last year. The parents declined to say how much the quintuplets earned, but it was enough to skew the earnings for fiscal 2000 - the year on their financial aid forms.

Financial issues aside, Pam Pisner said she's not ready for her children to leave the nest.

"We have spent the past 18 years devoting all of our time and energy to the kids, we love having them here, and all of a sudden, they are going to be gone - what will will do with the rest of our lives?" she said.