It's worth thinking twice about private universities, especially since they can cost several times as much as public schools. Some private schools have prestigious names that can open doors, or at least give a bit of shine to a resume. But a hard-working, clever student at a public university can achieve just as much. Besides a college's name, graduate schools or employers will be looking at courses, grades, recommendations from faculty members, initiative taken, achievements, and so on.

An interesting exercise is to have your child interview five to 10 adults, asking where they went to college, and how they think their college choice made a difference in landing jobs and in their career.

Also, these lists of people and the schools they attended can show your child that successful people have gone to all kinds of schools:

Public Schools
Warren Buffett (investor extraordinaire) University of Nebraska
Bill Cosby (comedian) Temple University
Roger Ebert (movie critic) University of Illinois
David Gardner (Fool co-founder) University of North Carolina
Jim Henson (Muppets creator) University of Maryland
Stephen King (writer) University of Maine
David Letterman (TV personality) Ball State University
Steven Spielberg (director) California State College, Long Beach
Oprah Winfrey (media personality) Tennessee State University

Private Schools
Madeleine Albright (Secretary of State) Wellesley College
Carly Fiorina (Hewlett-Packard CEO) Stanford University
Tom Gardner (Fool co-founder) Brown University
Ruth Bader Ginsberg (Supreme Court justice) Cornell University
Steve Jobs (Apple co-founder) Reed College
Denzel Washington (actor) Fordham University
Tiger Woods (golfer) Stanford University

Different personalities thrive in different environments. Public schools are attractive because (among other things) they can cost a lot less. But with proper planning (and perhaps a scholarship or two), private schools can be very affordable, too.

Here are some Fool articles on student loans and paying for college:

You'll find lots of additional tips on 529 plans and on paying for college in our College Savings Center. Our Paying for College discussion board is a good place to ask questions you may have, and our book, The Motley Fool's Guide to Paying for School, by Robert Brokamp, is also a handy resource.