I think Dave Ramsey, a personal finance expert, has hit the nail on the head. Follow these "Baby Steps" for you FIRST:
1. You get $1000 in the bank as an emergency fund
2. Debt snowball: Pay off lowest amount 1st. It's 99% behavior and 1% money. Get the victories under your belt and you will be motivated to get out of debt. (House is later)
3. Get 3-6 months expenses in the bank. (Bigger Rainy Day Fund!)
4. Invest 15% of your income. Your retirement comes before kid's college!
5. College funding. I'll explain this later.
6. Pay off home early. Don't pay off home before you fully fund your retirement. Otherwise, you will have a paid for home and no money to live on.
7.Build wealth and give, give, give!!
Education is necessary. It is very important. However, make sure you have fully invested in your retirement before you pay for kid's college. You are closer to retirement than they are, and unless you want your kids financially supporting you when you retire, placing a bigger burden on them to support you and their family, take care of yourself first.
Once that is done, you can put money towards their education. Kids can earn scholarships or work for the money for college. During the summer, most kids can earn at least $5,000. Fast food, deliver pizzas, tutoring, call centers, whatever it takes, it is easy to get that. I know our state schools are good colleges here and one year with books, fees, tuition is just about $5,000. If they want to live on campus, or away from home, they can work during the year to pay for those expenses.
Our job as parents is to raise mature, financially responsible adults who can produce positive effects on society. 10 years after they graduate, the only time people really care what school you went to is when it comes to football and basketball loyalties. Yes, some institutions have better programs than others and cost more. Scholarships are great ways to help pay for an education. While I am not a proponent of student loans (why start your new life in debt?) That is a personal choice if the kid wants to go to an expensive one and can't come up with the funds.
Kids need to learn (preferably earlier than college) that if they want something in life, they need to WORK for it. Too much is given out free. Don't feel like it is your responsibility to pay for it. Nope, it isn't. It is an added blessing they get if you can help out.
Start teaching your 9th grader s/he needs to start saving his money NOW. Teach your 9th grader the BABY STEPS above. Car? Kid pays for it. It is called RESPONSIBILITY. You are doing more for your child by teaching them this than handing them everything. The 9th grader can start babysitting, dog sitting/walking, paper routes, fast food, what ever... start their own business even.
Believe me, it can be done. I have seen it done numerous times. Your child will be better for it! If you need financial help, get Dave Ramsey's book "The Total Money Makeover" or take his Financial Peace University course. You'll be glad you did!