Recently in the news, there has been much speculation regarding whether a college degree is worth the investment — and a rather large investment at that. According to the College Board, tuition hikes have exceeded inflation over the past several decades. Private college costs have risen to an average of $36,993 and in-state costs at public colleges were up to $16,140 in 2010–11. If your children are now teens or pre-teens expect a combined — two children — sticker price of more than $200,000 in in-state costs. Parents of infants and toddlers face a combined cost of about $360,000. Have the heart palpitations calmed down yet? The good news is that college is still a good investment and it can be affordable. People with four-year degrees earn nearly twice as much as those with high school diplomas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition to that fact, a college degree is more likely to get you hired. While this may be less of a trend over the past few years, many employers are still looking for a minimum of an AA degree even for entry level positions. In addition, an average of 76 percent of college students receive some type of financial assistance. So where do you start? Follow these simple steps to prepare for your children's college years.