How to keep up with the college cost crunch - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

How to keep up with the college cost crunch: A WAFF News Special Report

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The cost of college tuition is steadily climbing, making it difficult for many to pay for classes. Alabama's two largest public universities are the University of Alabama and Auburn University.

Auburn's main campus charges $8,700 a year, while the University of Alabama charges around $8,600. The fees are no different in the Tennessee Valley area. 

Alabama A&M's tuition and fees cost $8,228. The University of Alabama-Huntsville's around $7, 492, and the University of North Alabama $7,188.

The schools' tuition and fees doesn't include a place to live, food, transportation or books. Parents and students often forget to budget for those.

"I got to college and when I went to the bookstore, I realized that I had to spend almost $500 on just books. I had to hurry up and call home and ask my Mom for book money," said Kristen Dial, a high school counselor.

If throw in the cost of a place to live and food, and your yearly costs can double that tuition figure. So, a lot of people are asking, how can they pay for it all?

For most students, the only way college is possible is through scholarships and student loans. There are a lot of scholarships out there for students, and the Internet is a great place to find them.

Lisa Reid, the mother of a son with several scholarships, says start early. 

"They should really start looking and investigating in 9th or tenth grade at the latest. Start gathering information. Start a portfolio. Get a big notebook, working on their resume their community service because there are community service scholarships out there based solely on that," said Reid.

But if you have young children and you're looking at college ten to 15 years down the line, there is problems you are looking to run into.

According to www.fin-aid.org, a financial aid tracker, college tuition costs go up 8% a year. So, for a baby born today, college costs would be three times the current rates, or roughly, $21,000-29,000 just for tuition and fees.

Some good news, there's a relatively new savings plan called the Alabama 529 College Savings Plan. Huntsville financial advisor Russ Davis said it may be just what you need.

Anyone can contribute to it. You get a state income tax break, and with several mutual funds involved, there's a lot of potential.

"You can even start with 100 dollars a month going into the plan. And if you start early enough, that will have some impact by the time the child turns 18," said Davis.

But will it take care of all of the costs, especially with the skyrocketing rates?

"Start early enough, put enough money in, and it is very possible," added Davis. 

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