Affording college tuition may mean having to wait

April 18, 2012 at 2:18 PM ET

Farnoosh Torabi

This is the season when college acceptance letters start coming in the mail and lots of families are trying to figure out how to pay the hefty tuition costs.

With annual in-state tuition costs for public colleges averaging more than $8,000, and private school costs topping $28,000, reports, the thought of covering such an expense can seem hopeless, especially to parents facing budget constraints already.

But never fear, stressed Farnoosh Torabi, personal finance expert, author of “Psych Yourself Rich: Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life”, and host of "Financially Fit" on Yahoo, who was on hand Wednesday to take online questions from readers during our weekly live chat.

“There is hope if you're willing to be flexible and not rush into the whole college thing,” she said.

“Saving money takes preparation and it takes thinking outside of the box,” she explained. “I will be the first to say that your child doesn't need to head to college right away - especially if the money isn't there. Taking a year off to work, save or enhance your resume with volunteering experiences can boost your chances of not only getting into a good school, but paying for it.”

For those who don’t want to wait, she said, two-year community colleges can be a good starting point. “Smart, talented students are flocking to community college to earn credits, save money and later move over to a full-time 4 year institution,” she noted.

Torabi also weighed in on the question of whether parents should be saving at all for their kids’ education, a topic covered by reporter Allison Linn Wednesday. 

“Some parents see college as a great gift to their children - and if you feel strongly about making this a financial priority, that's great,” she said. “But don't kill yourself trying to send your children to college. Do what you can. Be realistic and involve your kids in the reality. One thing is true, when children bear some of the cost, they tend to appreciate the education more and recognize the value a lot more.”

You can read the full Q&A with Torabi here: