Clean sweep: Janitor sends five kids to college for free

BOSTON -- Boston College is one of the most prestigious private universities in the country. And although there is certainly money in their trust funds, it's safe to say no one there feels any richer than the man in the mirror.

Fred Vautour works overnights as a janitor at BC.

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Fred Vautour

CBS News

And this is the story of how he parlayed this relatively low-paying job into a gold mine, thanks to a university policy that says if you work here your kids can go here for free -- assuming they're accepted. Which is not easy.

And yet back in 1998, his oldest daughter Amy actually got in.

"She broke down crying, and I broke down crying, and we hugged each other. And there's pictures in my house of that."

He still keeps the acceptance letter on his wall.

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Fred Vautour shows Steve Hartman where he keeps the Boston College acceptance letters of his five children.

CBS News

"Me and my wife struggled through a lot of years, but seeing that made it all worthwhile."

It hangs in the dining room, next to the one his son got a few years later, and his other son's. In fact, his house is pretty much wallpapered in Boston College acceptance letters -- as all five of his kids got in.

"He really opened the opportunity for us," his daughter Amy said.

"It was never a question of if we would go to college or not. We will go to college, and that's what he instilled in us," said his son Brandon.

The kids say dad, and mom, didn't pressure them to succeed. They just set the expectation and provided the means, no matter what it took.

"You live for your kids, so they could have a better life than I had," Fred said.

Fred insists his kids are now all smarter than he is. But you have to wonder. Over the past two decades, Fred has taken Boston College for nearly $700,000 worth of free tuition, which makes him no dummy.

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Fred Vautour's five children all went to Boston College for free.

CBS News

His last daughter, Alicia, graduates next week -- a relief to the school, I'm sure. But not to Fred, who says these college years flew by too fast.

"I was 44 at the time and now I'm 62 -- and it's like, wow."

When it comes to kids, watching them reach the top is definitely a reward. But Fred says climbing the ladder with them is even better. Even if you have to vacuum the steps along the way.

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  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.