EDISON - The cost of a college education keeps rising, with the average cost of higher education now $31,000 a year in tuition and fees. 

A study by the financial services company Fidelity finds that parents who want to help their children with college expenses are having a hard time keeping up with the costs.

Consumer Reports’ Donna Rosato says that paying for a college education may seem overwhelming, but parents should remember that every little bits helps.

“One good thing to do is probably to automate your savings,” Rosato says. “Have $50 a month taken out of your account. Even several hundred dollars can pay for books at the beginning of a semester.”

Rosato also suggests applying for scholarships and grants. She also suggests parents be honest with their children about how much they can pay so the child can pick a school that is a financial fit.

Consumer Reports also suggests that students try going to a county college for the first two years if they are undecided on a major. The costs are often less.

Another suggestion is to consider a tax-free 529 college savings plan to make the most out of college savings.

“A lot of parents wonder ‘Should I put my money in a 529 plan or should I invest it myself?’ It’s very hard for people to beat the market on their own. And it's very hard to beat the tax advantages you get with a 529 plan,” Rosatos says.