We have four kids. One is now a freshman in college and another will start this Fall. Way back when, we put in about $100 per month. Things really do change over the years. One is attending a private university and received some very nice scholarships. We used some of the money we had invested for him, sold some stock, he worked, and used some of our dividends. We do not want him to take on any more debt his remaining three years. So, it will be done with a mix of the money we invested for his college, dividends we receive on other investments for our retirement, our income tax refund, the education tax credit, and him working.
Our other son plans to attend a community college--he does not want to go 4 years, just 2 years. We also saved about $100 per month over the years--and actually stopped contributing to it a few years ago. The money we invested for him over the years will pay for him to attend 2 years at a community college. He is planning on living at home the first year, which will also cut way down on expenses. He also has been working part-time and we will ask him to contribute some of his earnings.
Our other 2 younger children also want to attend a community college. Same thing--we've just been putting $100 away for each of them.
I really think as children get a little older, say age 8-10, you really know their strengths and if they would be a good fit for a 4-year college. We have always "promoted" education, but there are lots of options out there for those kids who do not want to attend a 4-year college. Also, there are lots of kids out there who want to go, but either they or their parents have no plan on how to pay and so what happens is the massive amounts of debt we are seeing in our culture.