If your teen is heading off to college for the first time this fall, you're probably acutely aware that your "baby" is finally slipping out of your grasp. Once the kids are gone, they're gone!

But if you're still footing part of the bill, you have some influence. Use it, before it's too late.

Here are three tips for a must-have discussion -- one that you must have sometime before you're in the car headed to the airport. The discussion revolves around financial issues, and it's best to get them resolved before things get out of hand.

How Much Is Enough? For How Long?

The most obvious discussion revolves around how much money parents will provide, in addition to room and board, and how that money will be paid.

Don't assume that a previously responsible student will be able to manage an entire semester's worth of spending in the heady atmosphere of that first year of college. It's best to make support payments once a month, to help the budgeting process.

Your student may want to set up a checking account in the college town, since local checks will be more easily accepted. Parents can then set up an automatic monthly wire transfer from their bank to the student's account -- at a specific date each month.

An even better solution is found here -- a fully loadable, prepaid debit card offered by many national banks. The student can use it to withdraw cash from an ATM or to make a purchase any place a VISA is accepted. There's no chance of running up huge bills, because the line of credit is equal to the money the parents deposit in the account. The card can be reloaded directly from the parents' checking account.

Big Bonus: Both parent and student can view the debits online, real time. So if there's a sudden cry for more cash because "books are expensive," parents can see that there have also been a lot of withdrawals for the campus grill.

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