Education and determined effort are the gateway for young people in the United States to become financially successful adults. It is not professional sports and definitely not winning a lottery or becoming the king of black jack or poker.

If you have in your family or know talented elementary or secondary students, they need guidance and encouragement to know what is possible for their future, long before it is time to complete college applications.

Please do not hear me say that financial success should be a person’s highest priority or that one cannot lead a completely fulfilling life without post-secondary education. Indeed many students would do well to pursue other types of education and vocational training. But in this column, I discuss topics in the financial realm and teaching our children the importance of contributing to society at their highest capabilities is a value I believe in.

While on the board, one of my personal goals for our school district was to know we provided the foundation and tools necessary for any student with superior potential to be able to apply him or herself with that determined effort and be successful at the best colleges and universities anywhere. And our graduates have continued to enter and compete well in those institutions.

Being accepted at tier one schools is one thing, but how can a young person of average means hope to attain that degree or carry on through graduate school without owing more than the national debt? Therein lies the good news from some of the finest universities.

I became aware of this through my alma mater, Stanford University. For the 2008-09 academic year, special scholarships have made it possible for students whose parents’ income is below $60,000 to attend for a zero cost except for the student’s own savings, income from summer work or part-time work through the school year. Since tuition, room and board, and books and supplies totaled $48,667 for this year, this qualifies as a really good deal!

If parental income is higher but less than $100,000 in total, Stanford ensures that all tuition charges, $36,030 currently, will be covered with need-based scholarships, federal and state grants and/or outside scholarships—no loans. In most cases, the parental contribution will be no higher than $11,000, the standard cost of west coast room and board. Most would be much lower than this. Again, the student will be expected to work an average of 7.5 hours per week at campus jobs paying $11 an hour.

Stanford and other schools also practice what they call need blind admission. Critical factors include the student’s grades and class rank, ACT or SAT scores and extracurricular activities showing service and leadership. Once the acceptance is issued, the university provides the initiative to find money for the student’s cost.

Hopefully others will follow this example and share from the endowments that were gargantuan before 2008. The best news may be that quality higher education is available in many forms for far less cost and the world cares even more about how you apply what you know after your formal education.