ost parents fret over the money for tuition, room, board and books they have to fork over every year to send their to college. But imagine sending not just one, but 48.

Yep, that's right - 48. And that's exactly what George Weiss will be doing next year.

Nine years ago, Weiss, a 55-year-old Hartford businessman, told a group of 76 second graders at Annie Fisher Elementary School in Hartford, Conn., that if they graduated from high school, he'd send them to any college - all expenses paid. This year, 48 of those students will take him up on his offer.

"This has been a huge weight off my parents' shoulders," says U. of Virginia freshman Ansley Dawkins. "It's been a headache for them putting two kids through college, and now they're totally relieved."

This is the third time the U. of Pennsylvania trustee has put a group of inner-city students through college. The Hartford students join others from Philadelphia and Boston who were promised a free college education in exchange for a high school degree. To date, there are 318 members of Weiss' extended family. That's one whopping dinner table.

Weiss' contact with his "kids" doesn't stop after four years of higher education. "We work with these kids all through elementary school, high school and college, and beyond," he says. "It never ends, because it's a family."

The students share that sentiment. "He is both a father figure and a friend," says Alex Campbell, a freshman at the U. of Hartford. "He likes to hang out with us, and he always welcomes students into his home."

Weiss is happy to do everything he can. "I can't say I endured the same abject poverty that some of the kids endured," he says. "But I knew what it was to support a family. I know the value of work."

And he's willing to put over $4 million on the line to say that his "kids" do, too.

By Andy Denhart, Stetson U., and Julie Keller, Assistant Editor

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