My parents paid for my college education. Although, they basically used it to manipulate me. If I didn't do something they wanted me to do, like choose a certain major, or if they were just upset at me for whatever reason, they would threaten to stop paying. I was constantly stressed out that they would just stop paying, it was not a good situation, esp since they always found reasons to be unhappy with me. Now that I look back on it, I actually wish I would have just taken out loans on my own, so I wouldn't have had to deal with my parents manipulation and so I could have chosen a major that would have been a better fit for me. My DH had about half of his tution paid for by his parents.
As for our kids, we are trying to save for them, within the first yr of their lives, we started saving accts for them. Unfortunately, chances are that they will not qualify for any financial aid. I am hoping that we will save enough to pay for the majority of their education. When they are older, I plan to return to work maybe 1-2 times a wk, and all of my earnings will go directly into their college fund. I am currnently a SAHM, but if I want to pay for my kids' college, I will need to return to work. It's something I am not thrilled about, esp since we are planning to HS our children, I would prefer to be able to just concentrate on HSing and our family instead of having to work too.
We are not telling our kids that we are saving for their college fund. We want them to work PT jobs when they are teenagers to save up for school on their own, so they can assume some of the responsibility and understand what it is like to have a job... usually jobs that teenagers have are not-so-great and low paying. It's a humbling experience. I worked at arby's as a teenager and it really helped me to understand how hard you have to work to make a living. I also worked PT jobs during college to pay for books and spending $ and I was a residence hall advisor for three yrs, so that was three yrs of free room and board. The kids can take out a loan, and when they graduate, we will pay off as much of the loan as possible with the $ we have saved as their graduation present. If they don't graduate from college (ie: they partied and flunked), we are not paying for any of it, they are responsible for paying off that loan.
Some ppl may not agree with our decision to do this. However, based on DH's and my experience in college, we saw many kids whose parents footed the bill, only for the kids to squander their college education by partying it up and then never graduating at all. Most of these kids were not paying for their education, and I believe that played a role. Hopefully, my kids will take their education seriously (we will be HSing our kids), lol. I am also not against the idea of them starting out in community college close to home first and then transferring to a 4 yr university (most students that I know who did this, actually did very well in college and saved $ by being commuter students), or taking a yr or two off before starting college, so they have a better idea of what they want to do. I remember one of my DH's co-workers said that the main motivating factor for him to go to and complete college was that he used to work at a steel mill in the summer when he was a teenager and he knew he did not want to do a job like that for the rest of his life, and realized that having a college education would help him get a better job. I'm not saying I want my kids to work in a steel mill and do back breaking work, but I think it can be an eye opening experience to work a low skill, low paying job and realizing that by furthering your education, you can improve your job and financial situation.
As for grad/prof school, the kids are on their own. DH and I were already past 30 by the time we started our family... I don't think we could afford to save enough for retirement and pay for more than 4 yrs of college for two kids. Unforutnately, the costs of college is why my DH does not want to have another baby. It makes me sad, but I can understand where he is coming from. Getting a college education is a very high priority in our family, basically, it is expected that our children will go to and graduate from college. We will try our best to make it financially possible for our kids to get an undergraduate degree. If we can afford to help pay for grad/prof degrees, then that's great, we will do what we can. My DH keeps hoping he'll win the lotto, lol. He wants to win big, but I keep telling him if we could just win enough to pay for the kids' college education, I would be a very happy woman.