Taking control of college costs

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

Outstanding student loan debt has surpassed $1 trillion. Tuition and costs can average $40,000 per year for a four-year private college and $17,000 for an in-state public college.

Roger Michaud, chairman of College Savings Foundation, advises parents to research all their higher education options -- both out of state and in state.

"There may be excellent in-state programs to give your child the preparation or diploma they need for their career such as nursing, teaching or public service," he said. "These can include community colleges."

Michaud said the best way for parents to take control of anticipated college costs is through saving.

"529 college savings plans offer the greatest tax advantages for families, and have the least effect on financial aid," he said.

College Savings Foundation's annual survey of parents showed that families who saved through 529s were much more successful savers.

"It's best to save early and often, but it's never too late to start," he said.

Even if families start saving when the child is in middle and high school, they have time to build up a nest egg and can continue to save throughout the college years.

Another option is to ask friends and family for support instead of material gifts, he said.

College Savings Foundation is hosting a free forum for families, "Making Sense of College Costs," on Thursday, Feb. 14, 1:30 p.m.-4 p.m., at the FireSky Resort, 4925 N. Scottsdale Road.