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Online Investing Hacks by Bonnie Biafore

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Hack #91. Up, Up, and Away: The Cost of College

With college costs soaring out of sight, putting your kid through college without putting yourself in the poorhouse requires some financial homework.

For parents, the numbers are hair-raising. Like an out-of-control Mack truck, college costs increase every year at a blistering pace, and the increase actually accelerated in 2003. At the same time that college tuition is skyrocketing, a college education influences future earning power more than ever. If little Suzy can’t afford to go to college, she’ll earn $1,000,000 less than the average college graduate during her lifetime. So what can you do to ensure that your kids go to college without sacrificing the rest of your financial goals? Start planning as early as possible [Hack #90] and start by figuring out how much college is likely to cost. If the numbers seem impossibly high, don’t worry—there are a number of cost-saving strategies you can try.

The first step to calculating the cost of college is to understand the enemy—tuition is only the beginning. Before you start to build a college savings plan, make sure you add up the costs for each of the following college expenses:

Tuition

A lump sum or per-credit-hour charge for educational instruction.

Fees

Vary depending on the college and your child’s major. There are some fees that all students must pay, such as student activity fees, but others are optional.

Room

Varies depending on whether a student lives on or off campus. Some colleges ...

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