Future college students: Pay for school yourself!

A study on college savings done by Fidelity shows that parents aren't saving nearly enough to send their children to college. While parents are saving for college, they're doing so based upon what they think college will cost, which ends up to be only about 24% of what college is expected to cost in the coming years.

College tuition, fees, and living expenses are rising fast, and the savings plans of the parents aren't keeping up. The study found that on average, parents are planning on paying about 43% of the total cost of college and related expenses, with loans, grants, and student payments making up the difference.

But Fidelity says that parents should plan on costs of $77,000 to $100,000 to attend a four-year program at a private or public school. The parents just don't seem to be prepared for this type of cost.

Add to this the fact that parents are starting to save too late, aren't saving enough, or tap into college savings funds for other emergencies.What's the solution? Students should pay more of their own educational costs, strive for scholarships and grants, and take out student loans to cover the balance. Can it be done? Of course. And students who are heavily vested in paying for their own educations often take college much more seriously.

Will this require sacrifice on the part of students? Yes. They may have to work while in school, possibly limiting the number of classes they can take each semester. They may have to give up extracurriculars in favor of working extra hours to cover college costs.

But all in all, the student will likely end up with a greater appreciation for the education, a solid work ethic, and a sense of accomplishment for playing a more active role in paying for this major life expense.

Forensic accountant Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations through her company, Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners honored Tracy as the 2007 winner of the prestigious Hubbard Award and her first book, Essentials of Corporate Fraud, will be on bookshelves in March 2008.
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