Talk to Your Kids
If you're like most parents, you feel like the onus of sending your kids to college is entirely up to you. While that's partially true, there's no reason your children can't help beyond student loans, which many grads carry these days. I mean sitting kids down early on and discussing what they can do to pitch in.
"Kids should know that they're going to have to make some contribution and that, if they study hard, they may have a chance to earn grants and scholarships. The more things they can do to help get themselves into college—extracurricular activities, community service, great grades—the better," says Donna Winn, an OppenheimerFunds exec.
In high school, they can get a weekend or part-time job and earmark some money for college.
Aim for One-Third
Most parents don't pay for all of college these days—they simply can't. But parents tend to feel better if they can make a significant contribution. I suggest splitting the pot into thirds. You're doing well if you can save one-third of your child's tuition before school, tell them to plan on borrowing one-third and—assuming you're doing okay at the time and are satisfying your retirement savings needs—consider paying the rest while they're in college.