2 tips to help you plan for the high cost of college

You would have to be living under a rock to have not seen stories in the news about the rising cost of college and the huge problem of crushing student loans.plan for the high cost of college

As a parent, one of my desires is to help my son with those costs so he doesn’t spend the first 20 years of his adult life digging out of the hole he created getting an education.

But how do I plan? How much do I need to save?

I recently came across a little trick that could be a big help in determining how much Junior will need t0 come up with for that 4 year education.

Using Google to find real college costs

I doubt there is anyone who hasn’t used Google to search for something on the internet. What you may not know is there are many hidden tricks to using Google for special types of searches.

For example did you know if you want to look up a word in the dictionary you can simply type in “define xxxxxx” in the search bar in Google and it will show you the dictionary entry for your word.

The trick I learned this week is you can type “cost of ‘your college'” and Google will show you the current cost for the school of your choice including tuition, room and board, books, and other fees.

So just for the sake of example, since I live in Ohio ,we will look at the cost of attendance at Ohio State.

Cost of tuition 1

So for this year the full cost of attendance at Ohio State if you are an in-state student is $25,631.

Using this information to plan

The nice thing is it also breaks out the cost of tuition vs. room and board vs. books and supplies and other expenses.

That allows me to consider various scenarios. What if Junior lived at home and commuted? What if Junior and a couple of friends were to find an apartment to share near campus? How much might I be able to save by finding deals on used text books?

I can also get an idea of the answer to questions like:

  • If Junior is interested in an out-of-state college¬†can I see just how much it is going to cost to cross that state line?
  • What is the difference in cost for a public school vs. a private school?
  • How much might we be able to save if Junior went to a community college for a couple of years to get some of those general requirements out of the way before transferring to the school he really wants to attend?

Understanding the answers to these questions will go a long way to helping you make wiser choices.

Don’t forget about inflation

But there is a problem with this approach. This provides an idea of what college would cost today, but my son is 13. Obviously, inflation means that when he’s ready to head off to college it’s going to cost more.

The last few years inflation of college tuition has averaged around 6%-7%. So what cost do I really need to plan for?

The good news is FinAid has a very simple College Cost Projector calculator on their website:


You simply enter in the cost today, the inflation rate you project, and how many years until college and it will calculate the cost of a 2 year or 4 year degree.

So in the example we have been looking at lets say my son is going to Ohio State. We know the full current cost of attendance is $25,631. We’ll assume the 7% inflation average is correct. And my son is 13 now so I need to know what the cost will be 5 years from now.

finaid-college-cost-calculatorI enter those numbers hit calculate. And maybe my heart stops just a little when I see that the four-year cost in our situation is projected to be just under $160,000.



Plans based on real numbers

Granted $160,000 is a big number, and a little scary. But it also provides a reality check so I know what we should expect and the combined information from the two sites will help me plan for how we can accomplish our goal of getting Junior through college with as little debt as possible.

The key is to be intentional. We all know college is expensive. If we are planning toward some vague target that we don’t really have well defined, chances are good we will not make much progress. These two tips though will help you have a real target to aim for.

Are you planning to help your children pay for college?

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