Editor’s note: This is one of the 20 tough financial questions posed in the “Do This or That?” cover story in the September 2011 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Use the drop-down menu above to consider other financial conundrums and the right answers for you; share your own experiences and insights in the Discuss field at the bottom of this page.
Pay for the best college possible if your student is serious about studying and you can swing the cost without incurring excessive debt. Students who attend the most selective colleges have the best shot at graduating on time, going to grad school and finding well-paying jobs, according to Anthony Carnevale, of the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.
Choose a state school if you’re confident your state can provide a top-notch education. Consider starting at a community college to save even more money, especially if your student is unsure of his or her academic goals. If you don’t have the money to cover private college and you haven’t received financial aid, or you need to play catch-up with your retirement savings, going the public route is a no-brainer.