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By Adam Zoll | 02-05-2015 11:00 AM

Morningstar's Guide to College Planning

Get the facts on the high cost of higher education, college-savings strategies, 529 plans, financial aid, and student loans in this special web seminar hosted by Morningstar's Adam Zoll.

Adam Zoll: I'm Adam Zoll for Morningstar. If you or a family member will attend college in the next few years, or perhaps many years down the road, you're probably well aware of how expensive college can be. Each year, hundreds of thousands of students graduate college, many of them owing tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. And while borrowing to pay for college may be unavoidable in some cases, planning ahead to tackle the high cost of higher education is needed now more than ever.

Today, I'm going to be speaking to you about different aspects of college planning to help you make smart choices, no matter where you are in the process. Let's take a look at the topics to be covered.

We'll start by taking a closer look at the high cost of higher education. Then, we'll move on to different college-saving strategies. We'll give you some advice about choosing a 529 college-savings plan. Then, we'll talk about the important topic of financial aid and student loans. And finally, we'll discuss why college is still worth it.

Our first slide looks at how the cost of college has been increasing over the past few decades. As you can see, the light-blue line represents private four-year college tuition, fees, room and board. And the black line represents the same information for public four-year colleges. These are inflation-adjusted numbers, which means that this increase you are seeing is not due to overall inflation--it's inflation above and beyond the overall rate of inflation.

So, for the 2014-15 school year, the average tuition, fees, room and board at a private school was more than $42,000. And at a public four-year college, it was nearly $19,000.

The good news, if you want to call at that, is that that's the sticker price for public and private universities on average, and not everyone is going to pay that full sticker price. Once you factor in financial aid--grants and scholarships, in particular--you or your student may actually end up paying quite a bit less.

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