While nearly all families are in sticker shock over the prices for tuition and room and board, many don’t think about all the other purchases that they are or will be making as a current or future college parent.

So in addition to serving as your advocate in Washington and as a purveyor of timely information to you as you prepare for and become a college parent, we set out last year with a goal of creating partnerships in four core areas of spending and investment in the pre-college years:

  • 529/college savings plans in the earliest years of a child’s life;
  • Supplemental learning in the middle-school years;
  • Test prep in the high-school years;
  • And financing options for families, including loans, when the reality hits, beginning before high school graduation, of the first college bills to be paid.

We also realize that once you have successfully navigated the path to college acceptance and payment of tuition, you face additional “purchases” before you have time to catch your breath.

In fact, “back-to-school” is second only to the year-end holidays as a timeframe and category for spending and “college” is the biggest area of spending within that category. According to the National Retail Federation, the average family spends $2000 on back-to-school related expenses for the first year of college.

In an era of wired campuses, and wireless communications, the parental cost to “outfit” a young adult goes well beyond rain poncho and reading lamp, to also include:

  • laptop computer, cellular telephone and other electronic necessities;
  • basic residence hall or apartment bedding and furnishings; and
  • transportation to and from campus, as well as the shipping of items to and from campus.

We haven’t checked all the boxes yet for these “in-college” spending categories, and we know there are many other college-related expenditures that confront you. But what we are trying to do, on behalf of our members, is to provide you with discounts that ease the burden of being a current or future college parent. Please check our Deals and Discounts area on a regular basis as it is constantly being updated with new products and services.

Those of you who read this column know that I am very enthusiastic about the prospects for College Parents of America.

I believe that we are in the right place at the right time. The United States, at the turn of the millennium, has the greatest system of higher education in the history of the world. It’s not perfect, nothing ever is, but it has an awful lot of smart and dedicated people who want to make it even better.

A new, and growing, generation of students, born in the “baby-boom echo,” is on the path toward college. Those of us baby-boomer parents, who in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s constituted the single largest influx into higher education since the GI Bill, now expect our “millennial” children to graduate from college in much the same way that we were expected to graduate from high school.

As the PTA was to the post-war years, College Parents of America will be to the first decades of the 21 st century. And as the AARP became the model for a potent mix of advocacy, information resources and member discounts, College Parents of America aspires to become the perfecter of that model, presenting highly needed political representation, highly sought after resource information and highly deserved discounted products and services to an enormously desirable, and irrefutably growing, current and future college parent audience that already consists of more than 35 million U.S. households.

Please tell your family, friends and neighbors about College Parents of America and encourage them to join you as a member. The more members we have, the greater leverage we will possess to negotiate deals and discounts on your behalf.