Second to purchasing the family residence, the financial support parents provide to children attending college is the largest financial expenditure made by most families. It is no secret that education costs have risen faster than the general rate of inflation for almost two decades. This is true for both private and state supported institutions of higher education. Costs for state-supported 4-year institutions average $17,500 per year while private universities run approximately $35,000 per year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Education. Elite institutions are much higher.