The COA (total Cost Of Attendance— everything included) can be found on each college’s website.  But that number is the retail sticker COA.  Subtract the student’s scholarships to get the annual net cost. For the final family net cost, then subtract the student’s annual contribution— $3500 in yearly vacation earnings and $5000 in maximum annual borrowing (subtract another $2500 a year for the American Opportunity Tax Credit if the family makes less than $160k a year).  Make sure this final family net cost is affordable, a number that won’t create anxiety or parental borrowing.  If not, find a less expensive college.  Lots of affordable 4-year colleges exist. Just check out OnToCollege’s America’s Most Affordable Colleges: Our Definitive List, which is part of our OTC College Counseling System for Families and Schools. Be a smart college shopper. For example, though only 15 miles apart, UNC costs $23,734 for North Carolinians, while Duke costs $72,710. Duke might be worth it, but not if it turns you into a debt slave.

Remember the goal: graduation with minimal debt. College should not create indebtedness. College should create financial freedom.