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[Moderator note: A similar question was recently asked with respect to Canada. This is an important enough question warranting treatment for the U.S. as well.]

How much is college / university projected to cost in the U.S. in 18 years? If somebody were to start saving today for their young child (e.g. 1 year old) , how much would be required for a typical public college, vs. a typical private college? How much should be set aside monthly for each of those options, assuming typical rates of return?

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(I think this fits better here than where I originally posted it... ;))

The College Board offers a calculator. Keep in mind that college costs typically increase faster than inflation. When I attended in 2001-2005, my college's tuition costs increases ranged from 4 to 8%.

  • I pray to the deity of my understanding that calculator is wrong. Either that or that my kid is a genius. – MrChrister Dec 27 '09 at 4:01
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After talking about it with my wife we came up with the follow thoughts:

  1. Few people pay the full price. Between a grant here and a scholarship there, the little sums made a nice dent for us.
  2. Are you planning on paying the whole boat, just tuition, just tuition and room and board? There are many levels that we can participate in as parents that make it a lot easier.
  3. Are we going to council our daughter about appropriate loads? I took between 12 and 18 credits a term and finished on time, my wife took a full boat but had two full time jobs to pay for school and it was hard for her. If our daughter has to work to pay for everything we will suggest it take more than 4 years to complete school (just for her sanity)

The biggie is that as much as I want to pay for my kid's school, I need to be sure my retirement is fully funded. I think it would be a hundred times bigger gift to let me daughter be independent and not worry about her family than to have a free ride to school. It seems selfish to take our share first, but as we get older there will be less and less time to make a retirement comfortable. A kid's school is really last on the priorities to save for from my perspective.

Therefore, I set aside what I can (which right now is nothing) knowing there are options for my child and that if I am taken care of she is free to be her own person.

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