College costs have almost hit the absurd. For the 2014-15 school year, tuition, room and board averaged $42,419 for students at private, four-year colleges; $32,762 for out-of-state students at four-year public-colleges; and $18,943 for in-state students at public four-year colleges, according to the College Board.

It’s almost impossible for many parents to cover 100% of tuition and other costs. That’s where family (or even friends) may want to step in. “College planning can be quite complex,” says Paul Litchfield, a wealth advisor at Ferris Capital in Marlborough, Mass. “It’s not just buy a 529 plan and let it run.”

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