You may have seen those novelty baby bibs bearing the name of some Ivy League college and the hopeful words "class of ??"
It's not as though college represents a surprise stage - or hidden cost - of child rearing. Yet for a fair number of Americans, the first bills arrive pretty stealthily.
For a four-year undergraduate education, the first six-figure price tags (all inclusive) for private, four-year schools showed up way back in the early 1990s.
In relative terms, the cost may finally be leveling off (see today's lead story). But admission to the "ivory tower" can still require a towering outlay. How to cope?
Perhaps you've seen some version of that sobering college-cost chart: If your child is 10 years from college age, you need only put aside, oh, $500 a month. Wait until college is just a few years out, and you end up needing (and pulling) a lot of Gs to stay with the savings curve.
Parents who have picked the right stocks might blithely cover the costs with a check. Many more will tap home equity or borrow against a life-insurance policy.
Dovetail such measures with a student work-study arrangement, and many families get by.
But they shouldn't neglect financial aid. More than $64 billion in aid was awarded last year, up 85 percent from 10 years ago.
Federal loans accounted for 52.5 percent of that money, says The College Board, in New York. Other government programs and grants added up to 24.7 percent.
It's worth calling the Federal Student Financial Aid Information Center - (800) 433-3243 - about a surprising range of offerings.
And try cutting a deal with the dean, too. Colleges kicked in close to 20 percent of last year's aid.
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