College tuition is already expensive. But don’t expect the cost to go down anytime soon.

According to Deborah Fowels author of “1000 Best Smart Money Secrets/Students” the average in-state tuition for a public school now averages over $10,000 per year and is only bound to go up. At five percent inflation per year, the estimated cost per year 18 years from now of public school would be around $24,000 (10 years from now the cost would be approximately $16,000). Private schools can be two to three times as much.

The cost of attending George Washington University for the 2005-2006 school year is around $48,000 for tuition, room, and board . If costs continue to increase at 7 percent per year, the cost of attending to GWU will jump to almost $120,000 for each school year, or nearly $500,000 for a four-year degree.

So how can you come up with all that cash? Some of your child’s education is bound to be paid for through scholarships, financial aid, and student loans. The rest can only be the product of aggressive investing. Money that sits in a passbook savings account (earning perhaps 1 to 2 percent) or even a money market account is useless because the interest you earn on the cash won’t even keep up with inflation – let alone college tuition that increases at 5 to 7 percent per year.

To make sure your child has college money available when they need it, you have to choose a well-diversified portfolio of mutual funds, review the performance of funds annually and shift your investment around accordingly to make sure it’s not sitting under-performing mutual funds.

Fowels recommends parents make a schedule for tracking their investment based on their children’s ages:

Age 1-11: Choose growth-oriented stock mutual funds. Monitor the funds’ performance annually. If a fund is underperforming other funds in the sector, move your cash into a better-performing fund.
Age 12-13: Begin to shift your money into growth and income stock funds and bond funds, reducing your exposure to market ups and downs while still aiming for high returns.
Age 13-17: Cash in enough stocks and bonds to pay for the first year, and put it somewhere safe and accessible, like a money market fund. If you wait until just before you need the money, you may be forced to take it out at a time when market performance is down, thus losing some of your earnings.

But what if you don’t have enough cash to make a single stock market investment? Start spending less and saving more by shaving costs from your budget.

If you think that’s easier said than done, check out our article on how to save money for a few tips.

Once you’ve saved up the cash, where should you put it to get the best bang for your college tuition buck?

Great question! Fortunately, we’ve got some great investing suggestions for you in our article on investing money to pay for college. Check it out!

If saving for college seems to be a daunting task, take some time now to give yourself a pat on the back. After all, you’re reading this article and that’s a great start. At the very least, you’ve taken the first step and started to think about saving for college.

Now, turn your knowledge into action. Remember, the key to funding a college education continues to be an age old cliché, “Slow and steady wins the race.†So, invest wisely and consistently and start saving early.