July 27, 2001 11:00 pm

The cost for a four-year college education could run $75,000 or even higher today, depending on the school the student attends. Some private colleges are charging $25,000 or more per year for tuition, room and board. Those amounts will only increase in coming years.

The Oregon University System has announced a tuition increase this fall, including a 4 percent hike at Eastern Oregon University. Many public and private colleges and universities are raising their fees to prepare for higher energy bills this fall.

What will four years of college cost in five to 15 years? Will it be $100,000, $150,000, $200,000 or even more?

Parents, who are expecting to send their children to college in a few years, can postpone doing anything about the financing problem. They can hope that the funds will magically appear when their son or daughter enrolls. Good luck.

Prudent parents, however, should consider taking advantage of the State of Oregons new college savings plan. Under the plan, supervised by Oregon State Treasurer Randall Edwards, contributions that people make for their childrens or their own education are placed in a trust and directed into a special investment fund.

Oregonians concerned about future college bills now have great incentive to invest in this plan. Beginning Jan. 1, earnings and withdrawals will be exempt from state and federal income tax. But thats not all. Contributions of up to $2,000 per year can be deducted from Oregon taxable income. The deal would be sweetened more if Congress were to adopt a similar program making contributions deductible from federal taxable income.

Oregon College Savings Plan accounts can be set up for a minimum monthly contribution of $25. This could take the form of a payroll direct deposit.

About 5,000 accounts already have been set up in the Oregon College Savings Plan, amounting to an investment of $15 million. Parents can check out this program by calling 866-772-8464. A plan like that could take much of the pain out of paying for a college education down the road.

Good job, motorists

Congratulations La Grande motorists! City police officers were set up on downtown crosswalks Thursday, and most drivers showed courtesy to the undercover officers trying to cross.

Only eight citations were issued to drivers who violated the crosswalk rule that requires vehicles to stop and let pedestrians pass. Eighteen others received warnings, while an impressive 193 drivers yielded to the folks on foot.

The publicized police effort appears to be working. Officers plan to run several more decoy operations before school starts. This should bring more motorists into compliance with the crosswalk law and more smiles to pedestrians who are being treated with respect.