Nicholas Koppel, a senior at St. Anthony's High School in South Huntington, has received good news: He was accepted by all eight colleges where he applied.

But the joy is tempered by money worries.

"We really don't know how we're going to pay for this," said his mother, Tracy, a bank teller. She's a widow and she's fretting not only about Nicholas' tuition, but that of his two younger brothers.

She had been counting on refinancing the family house in Massapequa to pay college tuition, but local real estate has lost so much value she's learned that's no longer possible. Her finances are already stretched so much she's afraid she won't qualify for loans to help Nicholas.

Nicholas, who wants to study law, is waiting for financial aid packages from the colleges. One of his top choices, St. John's University, has already offered a small merit grant. He'd commute from home if he attends, but that still leaves about $30,000 a year for tuition.

That could mean as much as $120,000 in loans over four years, his mother said.

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"You need a graduate degree for many jobs, but with that kind of debt, how do you afford grad school?" she said. "We say children are our future, but it's becoming next to impossible for many of them to get the best education for their future."

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