If your clients have dependent children, chances are they've endured more than a few sleepless nights. If they're thinking about how to fund their college educations, especially if those children are already teenagers, they've likely developed full-blown insomnia.

Average nationwide sticker prices for the 2010-11 academic year-including tuition, fees and room and board-total approximately $16,000 for in-state public schools, $28,000 for out-of-state public schools, and $37,000 for private schools, according to the College Board's Trends in Pricing 2010 report. A growing number of elite private schools sport price tags above $50,000.

"The numbers can be very scary for families," says Michael Beloff, CFP, a financial advisor with MetLife's Barnum Financial Group (BFG) in Shelton, Conn.

Advisory clients may be among those most spooked. While the College Board reports that just one-third of full-time students actually pay the full published tuition price without receiving grant assistance, moderately affluent clients are likely to find themselves in that camp-even if full sticker price is well beyond their reach.

If their kids are headed to college soon, they also may not fully recoup the losses in state-sponsored 529 college savings plans they've set up for them. The typical 529 plan lost almost 24% of its value in the 2008 market crash, according to Morningstar.

The share of parents turning to financial advisors for college concerns this year has jumped to 33%, up from 28% last year, according to Fidelity Investments' fourth annual College Savings Indicator study. Advisors are also providing broader college guidance beyond accumulating savings and distribution strategies. Almost twice the number as last year are now helping clients research schools (25% vs. 13%), navigate the grant process (30% vs. 16%) and secure financial aid (37% vs. 20%), the study found.

To help boost their college knowledge, Beloff and five of his BFG colleagues earned the Certified College Planning Specialist (CCPS) designation this summer from the National Institute of Certified College Planners. NICCP has provided college funding training and education to about 1,900 financial professionals since its establishment in 2002, says co-founder Rick Darvis, CPA.

BFG also recently joined forces with College Insights, a Freehold, N.J.-based independent college advisory firm, to launch BFG's Center for College Planning. The center, which holds seminars at high schools and community centers, is open to the general public. BFG advisors can also use the center's tools with their own clients.

"It's like a minefield to navigate this college planning maze. 'How am I going to afford it?' is the most common question I hear," says Perry De Fontaine, CPA, president of College Insights and a financial advisor with BFG.

Using a comprehensive college funding process is only one of the keys to college success, says De Fontaine. The first factor, he says, is finding the best college for your children so they stay and graduate-something 42% of students fail to do in six years, according to the Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics.

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