After a summer of having your children home from college, doing their laundry, and cooking their meals, you might be looking forward to fall. But it'll cost you more this year to send your kids back to class.

College Savings Bank recently released the 2007 figures for the Independent College 500 Index. For 2007, the index stands at $35,272, up more than 6% from last year's figure. According to the release, that's the total price tag for one year of tuition, room and board, and fees at an average private college. Even if your kids are living off campus, you can expect to pay more than 75% of that amount on tuition and fees alone.

Saving at State U
It's no secret that private schools cost a lot more than public universities do. The cost of an average public school comes in at just beyond $15,000, with more than half of that amount going for room and board.

At the other end of the spectrum, Ivy League schools have an extra mark-up even over the average private college. You can expect to pay an average of 30% more for those elite universities -- above $45,000 a year. The odds are good that your children won't make a big dent in that figure by themselves, even if they spent the whole summer working full-time.

Digging for scholarships
The sad reality is that for nearly everyone, paying for college means looking for financial aid. Schools understand the financial pressures of going to college and often put together competitive packages for strong students. But increasingly, these packages include lots of student loans, which will handicap your kids after graduation. It's not enough just to take what your school gives you.

One way to beat the price increases is to find corporate scholarships. Increasingly, private companies have started to support education, both with direct donations to schools and through scholarships for students. Recognizing that the educational system provides them with the skilled labor they need to be competitive in the global marketplace, these companies use scholarships as an incentive for students to learn skills that will be the most valuable in their careers. The companies also hope to build goodwill and attract the most talented students to work for them after graduation.

Targeted vs. flexible
Often, companies will endow scholarships at particular schools in their area. For instance, Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel (NYSE:X) and Heinz (NYSE:HNZ) offer scholarships to Carnegie Mellon. Other companies contribute to particular programs at schools close to where they do business. Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB), both of which have a substantial business presence in oil-producing areas, have given several students of Texas A&M's engineering program endowed scholarships to finance their education.

On the other hand, some companies give general scholarships that aren't connected to a particular school. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), for example, set aside more than $500,000 for scholarships last year. While interest in software is one of the required qualifications, you can apply regardless of what college you plan to attend.

Do your part
Even though scholarships can help, you probably won't find one that will cover that entire $35,272. Our College Savings Center can give you the scoop on 529 college savings plans, which are a great way to contribute toward your children's future success.

No matter how financially secure you are, the rising cost of college can strain your pocketbook. But it's a small price to pay to prepare your kids for the real world -- and to get some peace and quiet after a long summer vacation.

Related articles:

Find out more about college savings strategies with our personal finance service, Motley Fool Green Light. You'll learn how to budget long before your kids get to college, and find out how to make the most of your savings. A 30-day trial to Green Light is absolutely free and will get you on the track to sending your kids to college.

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger hopes his daughter will score a nice scholarship someday. He doesn't own shares of the companies discussed in this article. Microsoft is an Inside Value recommendation. Heinz is an Income Investor pick. The Fool's disclosure policy gives you an education.