Attending college immediately following high school graduation is a trend that has been continually on the rise for the last few decades. Today, more than 20 million students enroll in college immediately following high school and more than half of them are female.With this increase in students going to school, there is an increase in student loan debt too. Student loan debt has long surpassed consumer credit card debt and has surpassed $1 trillion nationally. With student loan debt turning into a national issue that affects our economy, planning for how to save and pay for college is a task that families need to discuss long before children reach high school.Saving for college isn’t just something parents should concern themselves with – kids and other family members can help contribute to a college fund for your child too. Read our tips for how to make planning for college a family affair:Treat Saving for College Like a BillMake sure you prioritize saving for college by treating your savings account like a bill that needs to be paid regularly. This is common personal finance tip, too. If you opened a 529 college savings plan for your children, many employers now allow automatic payroll deductions to go straight to the account, automating savings for you.Teach Your Child About Saving EarlyMany people often say that they wished they learned more about money when they were kids. Now is a perfect opportunity to help your child understand the financial implication that their college education will have on them. Start teaching your kids early about savings with clear jars. As soon as they earn allowance money for doing chores or are given a gift of money by family members, label two jars “Spend” and “Save” and teach them how to allocate that money. The clear jars will give them the visual joy of seeing their money grow in their savings.When your children get older and take on a part-time job for cash, keep the same savings principle in mind and have them start to contribute to their 529 plan or other college savings plan. Make a point to sit down together regularly to check out how much money is in their account. Being aware of how much money is available to your child when it comes time to choose a college will help them make smarter college and financial decisions. Turn Gifts Into SavingsWhen birthdays and other gift-giving holidays roll around, use social savings platforms like Gift of College to help build your child’s college fund. Gift of College is a gift registry that allows friends and family to give money to your child’s college fund or to pay off student loans. Your children will be excited about building their college fund and your friends and family will be excited to give a gift that has long-lasting value beyond one birthday or holiday.Consider Dual Programs & AP Courses While In Grade SchoolThe best way to lower the cost of college is to finish your degree earlier. A way to do this in grade school is to consider dual programs and AP courses.Dual programs are usually offered to high school students through local community colleges. They give high school students the opportunity to be exposed to college courses and the college environment while still attending high school. These courses are usually offered at little to no cost for high school students. The best part is that the credits are guaranteed to transfer to the college you child chooses after graduation, giving them a leg up in completing their degree early. College is a different environment than high school, so it’s not for every student. Make sure that your child is mature and ready to handle the differences between college and high school before signing up.AP courses are another avenue that may transfer to college credit for students. AP classes are convenient because they are offered as part of the high school curriculum and are taught by teachers your child knows. However, the major criticism for AP courses is that some credits don’t transfer to colleges. Additionally, an AP grade comes down to the final statewide test, so if your child has test anxiety and bombs it, a bad AP score can be harmful to your child’s overall GPA.Seek Alternate Ways to Borrow Funds During CollegeOnce your child is in school, federal and private scholarships aren’t the only way for your family to manage college costs. Many parents end up taking out Federal Parent PLUS loans or other private loans. However, these federal and private loans aren’t the only way for you to help your child cover college costs. There are many fintech companies like Earnest who offer low-interest personal loans that can help bridge the costs not covered by federal aid and can help your child avoid taking on more student loans or racking up credit card debt.