College Costs: Reality Check

As the mother of a junior in high school, I have college on the brain. My junior is talking about how she can choose a college that is right for her (given her grades and test scores) by knowing what majors they have, whether or not they have an overseas program, whether she wants a large or small school, a co-ed or all women school, a public or private college, and how far away from home she wants to be.

We both know that what really matters to her success in college and her career is that the fit between her and the college is a good one - and that a good fit, means an engaged student, and great job prospects in her future. So, there you have it, right?

Actually, another important component of this discussion has to be cost. Your teen is old enough to understand the family's financial situation. When you are talking with your teen about college, it is important for both of you to understand the financial implications of their choices. Although many schools guarantee a financial aid package to any student admitted, parents may want to have a back-up plan that they can afford, so here is an estimate of what different options will cost.

The average estimated annual expenses of attending a California community college, including registration and fees, books, supplies, room and board (if living at home), and transportation is about $11,000.

For a California State University school, including tuition, books, supplies, meals and housing on campus, transportation, and personal expenses is about $19,000.

Attending a University of California school, including tuition, books, supplies, health insurance, room and board on campus, transportation, and personal expenses is about $26,000 a year.

Finally, the cost of private colleges each year comes in around for $50,000.

So, where is your reality?

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