Financial expert offers recommendations to pay for rising college costs

Tampa Bay area families continue to face rising costs of education, and financing it can be a seemingly impossible challenge.

According to the College Board, the average cost for in-state tuition at a public four-year college for 2011-2012 is $8,244. It jumps to $28,500 at a private four-year institution.

And that's just tuition - not room and board, books, supplies, or transportation. Tuition inflation averages about 6 percent each year.

Certified Financial Planner Terry O'Grady, with VALIC Financial Advisors, suggests several ways to cover the cost.

  • Scholarships/Grants
  • Pay as you go
  • Custodial Accounts
  • Educational Savings Accounts
  • 529 Plans (prepaid and investment)

Student loans are Terry's least recommended option.

"It's not smart to start a career with thousands of dollars in debt," says Terry. "Especially if the job you get with the degree you bought has no chance of paying off your student loans."

Should parents prioritize saving for college or saving for retirement?

"Take care of your retirement first," he urges. "No one offers scholarships to retire, but your child can work their way through college."

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