Financing a college education is a problem I identify with this fall: my eighteen-year-old son is now a freshman in college, and his brother is two years behind him. Hundreds of parents who are facing college costs for the first time are in a state of near shock.

I used to be a high school counselor and am now a college dean of admissions, and I have discussed the opportunities of the college experience with many students and parents. When they hear that it will cost $4,568 per year (1976–77 mean for private four-year colleges) for a student to attend X college or $2,790 per year (1976–77 mean for public four-year colleges) for a student to attend Y university, many automatically turn off the possibility of X or Y right on the spot. But let’s explore the alternatives of financing a college education.

I believe that a student should be able to attend the college that will best serve and develop his or her abilities regardless of costs. The basic responsibility for paying the cost of education rests with the student and his family. Financial aid from various sources is supplementary to the family’s efforts. For the best chances of receiving aid, a student must plan ahead. Among the many possible sources of aid are colleges and universities, federally supported programs, state scholarships and loan programs, commercial banks, and insurance companies.

As I walk across our campus, I often see a student whose family simply cannot afford to send him to our college. But here he is with a pile of books under his arm. How do they do it? Tremendous sacrifice by the parents, to be sure. Plus the son’s willingness to work part-time as a janitor in a downtown Seattle office and hold a summer job as a deckhand ...

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