(NewsUSA) - When it comes to paying for college education, careful planning and budgeting are musts.

Just take a look at this -- as of 2012, college tuition has increased 1,120 percent -- far outpacing the price of consumer goods, medical expenses and food since records began in 1978, according to Bloomberg. In fact, average charges (tuition, fees, and room and board) at a public four-year college were $18,391 in 2013-14, according to the College Board (Trends in College Pricing report).

"As tuition costs continue to rise, and the national student loan debt hits $1 trillion, students are left wondering how they are able to afford the college education that is so vital to their future," says Mary Johnson, director of financial literacy and student aid policy at Higher One. "Finding a tuition payment plan might be a good alternative for some students and families."

For some, using a tuition payment plan can help budget and plan for the added expense of higher education. Some tuition payment plans can:

* Allow students and families to spread payments over a semester or whole year for a small fee;

* Help families manage their cash flow;

* Charge less than short-term, high-interest borrowing such as credit cards, personal loans, or student loans;

* Allow families to keep earning interest on their money, instead of giving it to the institution upfront;

* Allow independent students who are working, to manage their tuition payments as part of a monthly budget.

Whatever payment options you choose to use for your college education, be sure to do your homework first. Ask questions like: How much interest will I pay? How long will I be making payments? How much will I be required to pay upfront? Will my post-degree pay be enough to meet my monthly payments? When am I required to begin paying back the loan?