For most parents, college tuition looms large on the financial horizon from the moment a child is born.
For years, they wonder where the money for tuition, books and housing will come from.
At the same time, most parents will make any sacrifice necessary to make sure their child can attend the best possible school.
"There are two phases to planning for college: filling out forms and the cost of attendance," said financial adviser Bill Backes.
"A couple of years ago, I had a client come to me and say he needed $25,000 to help his granddaughter with her education."
Then his client told him that $25,000 would not even cover one year's tuition.
The statement was a wakeup for Backes and he started looking for financial answers. He was sure there were other ways to fund a college education without writing an enormous check.
"The national average for a public college is $14,640 per year," Backes said. "A private college is $30,295 and an elite college is over $48,000."
This includes tuition, fees, books, supplies, room and board, transportation and personal items.
Families who think they are not eligible for federal student aid should think twice, Backes said. "People make some great blunders filling it (the applications)."
One common mistake people make on the aid form is putting down the market value of their home.
The law says the applicant only need report what the home would sell for in a 30-day distress sale.
For purposes of financial aid, even if a student is living on his or her own with a job and money, they are not considered "emancipated" from their parent's income until the age of 24.
The exceptions are military service or being married with children.
Applying to six to eight colleges instead of just one can create competition for a student. High academic standing, high SAT scores, a particular talent, club membership and community service all look good on the resume.
Sometimes that resume will make private college tuition cheaper than public college tuition.
"I advocate not entering the system blindly," Backes said. "Start thinking about funding when your child is seven."
According to Backes, for parents who have a business or rental property there are legal ways they can rearrange their finances to get the maximum amount of financial aid even if the child does not qualify for need-based aid.
One way to do this is using the tax capacity of the child instead of the parents.
After a year and a half of study, Backes is now certified with the National Institute of College Planning and Consultants with Fox College Funding.
Cindy Backes is Bill's wife and business partner in charge of client services. She sits one on one with the student to determine what college matches the student's wants and needs. For example: Can a girl who is a talented dancer but wants to be an attorney find a college where her dancing can help get her a scholarship, yet the school also has a great law program?
"I'm passionate about this because when I wanted to go to college, I was left on my own to figure it out," Cindy said. "I wanted to be an artist, but nobody told me I wasn't going to make any money at it when I graduated from the university."
She wants students to know just how many career options are open to them that might fit their interests.
The Backeses will present a free informational workshop for parents, giving them strategies to reduce college expenses.
They will discuss financial aid and the do's and don'ts of applying, gifting and shifting assets. The free workshop will be held at 7 p.m. on March 28 in the Payson Public Library Meeting Room.
Call (928) 472-6768 to R.S.V.P.
Strategies to reduce college expenses
When: 7 p.m. March 28
Where: Payson Public Library Meeting Room
Call: (928) 472-6768