How To Cut College Costs

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(Germantown, TN)  Experts estimate parents sending their kids to college this year could shell out as much as $20,000!  It's almost double at private schools.

So what can you do to save?

It's a late weekday afternoon, and the Stewart family is enjoying listening to their son Troy strum his guitar.  "It's a mixed blessing, I'm real close to my son," says Bucky Stewart.  "Not only is he my first child, but he's my friend and I like his company," adds mom Kris.

Kris and Bucky know they don't have many more of these moments left.

Troy is headed to college in the fall, "I want to be a businessman, I want to go into probably business marketing.  I'm going to UT Chattanooga."

The Germantown High senior's 3.8 GPA  helped him get a scholarship that will lighten some of the load.

"It's a little over $16,000 a year and as of right now, he has about half of that in scholarships, so we're very blessed in that," says Kris.

The Stewarts say they started saving for college when their kids were born,  even thinking ahead for transportation.

"I planned six years ago to give him a car, so when I bought one, I thought, what would he be able to take to college," says dad, Bucky.

Mom's even started stocking up on apartment essentials.

"I'm set and so is my roomate," exclaims Troy!

Experts say parents can count on tuition rising about 5% annually at public schools and around 3% at private.

Some steps to save, finish on time.

Experts advise taking exploratory classes, so students have a better idea about their major. Some universities also offer three-year programs.

Next, pay creatively. See if your university offers a break for pre-payments.

You'll get future tuition at today's rate.

Also, don't forget about tax breaks.

Parents who spend at least $4,000 from an ordinary checking account can claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit.

"I have found that I've asked a lot of questions of my friends, you have to be proactive, the information is typically not going to come to you," says Kris who says she's learned a lot along the way.

Even with all the planning, though, the Stewarts say August will be bittersweet.

"A good friend once told me that if you do your job well, you work yourself out of a job so you know, I think we've prepared him well," Kris says.

Until then, the Stewart family plans to cherish the time they still have together.

Click HERE to read more about the hidden costs of college and how to beat them.