I think a lot of you hold some old views on college. Paying for tuition and books is no longer generous---it's a necessity. Before I get absolutely flamed, I'd like to say that for families like this one, that can't afford college, the kid SHOULD help pay their way. I'm only talking about families who CAN afford to send their kids.
If you can afford to send your kids, but deny them due to some out-dated idea about "kids being on their own at 18", you're a jerk. What's more, you're a jerk that's putting his/her own child at a massive disadvantage.
Here's why: The financial aid process isn't all that simple for 17 year olds. The most important thing you guys need to hear is that trying to convince a school that the parents aren't going to pay is nearly impossible. FinAid automatically factors in the parents' income--and convincing them otherwise is a serious, serious problem. If it was easy, all parents would claim their kids were on their own, then slip them money under the table. Hell, it was hard convincing my GRAD school that my parents weren't helping.
On top of that, there just aren't part-time jobs that can make the top private schools feasible (or even the state schools) It's easy to say to kids that they should just get a job and take out loans, but it's just not that simple. I worked almost full time my last two years of school to pay MY room and board (which was damn cheap, college town prices, single room+bathroom in a rooming house)----but I barely squeaked by, with some credit card debt. Parking fees, rent, food, water, internet (absolute necessity for college students), cell phone = more money than can be made while going to school full-time.
Now some of you are thinking, "But I worked full time! Kids need to suck it up!". The problem being that to get ahead in the modern college environment, you need to be working in a lab from 3pm to 1am.....or in the library until midnight.....or working an unpaid internship 30 hours a week. That's how you get jobs and grad school acceptances---a college degree isn't good enough anymore. How you can pack in 25-30 hours of work/lab/research, 15-20 hours of class, untold amounts of study time, paper-writing, and assignment completion with a full-time job is beyond me.
I'm not complaining, I had a great college experience, and mine was paid for, for the most part. But college has changed for the good students---unless your kid's a slacker wasting time, in which case he/she doesn't deserve college at alll, it's just not "generous" anymore to pay, it's necessary.