It may come as a surprise to some parents, but most of their kids think they have college costs handled. The evidence that leads them to this conclusion is that:
a) parents usually figure out how to pay for what they need and
b) parents tell them they need to go to college.
But college costs more than a class ring or a used car. College tuition is more like the cost of a house. Parents are uneasy at this time of year and most feel that they have college costs anything but handled. Parents are struggling to understand financial aid, whether they will get any, and the actual cost of college.
The good news is that parents and students have choices that can lower costs:
Parents are not obligated to empty their retirement accounts to pay for college nor should they do so. But parents should speak with their children early about what support they can reasonably provide in relation to what college actually costs. This early warning should be followed by discussions about college choices and meaningful assistance from parents in finding scholarship opportunities and completing applications.
The best thing that parents can do for their children regarding college is to start discussing college while children are very young so that later discussions about choices in relation to cost are not a surprise.