Originally Posted by DannyKass
Parents on US tv programmes seem to mention college accounts.. and sending their kids to college.. and paying for it.. A LOT.
Others have mentioned state schools. These are run by, or at least sponsored by, each state government. I believe that the initial intent was for them to serve a broad spectrum of residents of the given state, though as some departments of state schools have distinguished themselves in various areas, there's been a fair amount of crossover. Residents do typically pay a *lot* less, and these tend to have a large number of students. The Univ. of Pittsburgh is public, I believe, and has something like 30k-40k students.
Private schools don't receive the same subsidies as public/state ones, and tend to be way more expensive and harder to get into, and to have fewer students. Carnegie-Mellon had about 4k undergrads when I was there.
The financial aid office at CMU came up with a "package" each year, where they added up how much money they decided my parents could pitch in (which, being >0, was inaccurate, what they assumed that I could earn in a summer job, any scholarships (I had a couple) and grants. They factored in a student loan, which has a low interest rate because IIRC the government guarantees them -- but which can only be for a limited amount. A certain amount of "work study" was also awarded -- on-campus jobs where the hiring department paid half my wage and the university paid the other half. By the time I was a senior I was working 35 hrs/week, though I think work study only covered 20 of those. I think the state/federal government kicked in a bit as a "grant", too, and the remainder was "granted" by the university.