Adviser urges parents to start saving early, and share their thinking with the kids.

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Although Washington state reduced tuition at its public universities, the overall cost of college nationwide keeps rising, posing an ongoing challenge for students and parents.

The average cost of tuition, fees, room and board for one year increased 3.3 percent to $19,548 for the 2015-16 school year at four-year public universities nationwide, according to the College Board.

At four-year private, nonprofit universities, the combined average cost rose 3.5 percent to $43,921.

The expense means parents should decide when their children are very young how much they will contribute toward college years, says Trish Howe, a financial planner in Seattle.

That gives parents time to develop a college financial strategy and save. It gives their children time to prepare and also sets expectations about which schools the family can afford.

Parents who include their children in college financial planning encounter fewer unrealistic expectations when their sons and daughters start thinking about which colleges to attend.

“Don’t set yourself up to break a promise with your kid,” Howe said.