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The price you pay for college : an entirely new road map for the biggest financial decision your family will ever make
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Library Journal Review
"Your Money" columnist for the New York Times, Lieber takes on the knotty issue of what college is really worth now that a flagship state university can cost more than $100,000 for four years of on-campus living, and private colleges much more. First, he explains who pays what, how financial aid got so complicated, and how merit aid has become a new competitive factor among schools. Then he tackles the real question of what a college education is worth, asking questions of college presidents and financial aid gatekeepers that parents are afraid to ask. With a 100,000-copy first printing.
Kirkus Review
Can you pay for college without being broke until long after retirement? Sure--and this book offers plenty of pointers on how to do so. Today, attending a top-flight school can cost nearly $350,000. Yet, as New York Times financial columnist Lieber asks, pointedly, "what is the return on investment going to be?" There are other questions: Which schools are better at which disciplines? What kind of financial aid is available? Is your child suited for college? One central question, of course, is why higher education is so expensive. The answers are several, ranging from the recent movement of cash-strapped states to reduce or eliminate education funding to the fact that highly educated people--the tenured professors whom students usually encounter only in their junior or senior years--expect to be paid a decent wage, as do the endless layers of administrators and support staff. Lieber counsels that there are remedies available, though not even a committed high school guidance counselor can possibly know how to navigate them all: A student can go to community college to satisfy basic requirements, for example, though he or she better do the homework to be sure all the credits will transfer to their university of choice. A student can join the military and get GI Bill support. However, writes the author, "anyone considering enlisting in the armed forces for financial reasons alone should please think hard about the uncertainty they're signing up for." Perhaps his most important point is that in most instances, college tuition is negotiable and that the worst thing that can happen if you ask for a break is to be told no. But is college worth it? Quite apart from the educational aspect, Lieber holds, the answer to his first question is that the annualized ROI "is about 14 percent." Given that the stock market is typically half that, it's not a bad bet. A revealing and useful guide for the aspiring consumer of higher education. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Named one of the best books of 2021 by NPR

New York Times Bestseller and a New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice pick

"Masterly . . .represents an extraordinary achievement: It is comprehensive and detailed without being tedious, practical without being banal, impeccably well judged and unusually rigorous."--Daniel Markovits, New York Times Book Review

"Ron Lieber is a gift."--Scott Galloway

The hugely popular New York Times Your Money columnist and author of the bestselling The Opposite of Spoiled offers a deeply reported and emotionally honest approach to the biggest financial decision families will ever make: what to pay for college--a decision made even more confusing because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sending a teenager to a flagship state university for four years of on-campus living costs more than $100,000 in many parts of the United States. Meanwhile, many families of freshmen attending selective private colleges will spend triple--over $300,000. With the same passion, smarts, and humor that infuse his personal finance column, Ron Lieber offers a much-needed roadmap to help families navigate this difficult and often confusing journey.

Lieber begins by explaining who pays what and why and how the financial aid system got so complicated. He also pulls the curtain back on merit aid, an entirely new form of discounting that most colleges now use to compete with peers.

While price is essential, value is paramount. So what is worth paying extra for, and how do you know when it exists in abundance at any particular school? Is a small college better than a big one? Who actually does the teaching? Given that every college claims to have reinvented its career center, who should we actually believe? He asks the tough questions of college presidents and financial aid gatekeepers that parents don't know (or are afraid) to ask and summarizes the research about what matters and what doesn't.

Finally, Lieber calmly walks families through the process of setting financial goals, explaining the system to their children and figuring out the right ways to save, borrow, and bargain for a better deal.

The Price You Pay for College gives parents the clarity they need to make informed choices and helps restore the joy and wonder the college experience is supposed to represent.

Table of Contents
Introductionp. 1
Chapter IThe Price and Cost of College and the Systems Behind It
Chapter 1Who Pays What and Why the Price Is So Highp. 15
Chapter 2FAFSA and Its Expected Family Contribution Will Probably Make You Furious; Blame the Federal Government's Great Expectationsp. 23
Chapter 3How (and Why) Merit Aid Became Mainstreamp. 34
Chapter 4The Billion-Dollar Consultants Who Are Wooing Youp. 42
Chapter 5But Wait, Isn't Tuition a Bubble, and All of Higher Education Is Going to Come Apart at the Seams?p. 57
Chapter IIThe Unhelpful Feelings You May Feel
Chapter 6Fearp. 71
Chapter 7Guiltp. 76
Chapter 8The Pull of Snobbery and Elitismp. 85
Chapter IIIValue: Things Worth Paying For
Chapter 9Classrooms Where Experienced Instructors Have Time to Teach (and Actually Want To)p. 97
Chapter 10Schools Where Students Learn (Because Many of Them Don't) HO
Chapter 11Undergraduate Mental Health Centers That Are Not in Crisisp. 116
Chapter 12Peers Worth Friending (or Marrying)p. 126
Chapter 13The Special Power of Women's Collegesp. 136
Chapter 14Diversity in All Its Formsp. 140
Chapter 15How and When Small School Size Mattersp. 149
Chapter 16Amenities (but Is a Lazy River a Plus?)p. 160
Chapter 17Genuinely Reinvented Career Counseling Officesp. 168
Chapter 18Places That Create Better Odds When Applying to Grad Schoolp. 177
Chapter 19Better Salaries When You Finish-if You Finishp. 181
Chapter 20How the College of Wooster Puts It All Togetherp. 187
Chapter IvMoney-Saving Hacks That Will Tempt You
Chapter 21Community College Will Save You Money, but What Might You Lose?p. 199
Chapter 22Honors Colleges and Programs Make Bigger Schools Smaller-if You Stick with the Programp. 207
Chapter 23Attending College Abroad Is Often Cheaper, but You Won't Get What You Don't Pay Forp. 214
Chapter 24Athletic Scholarships for the Few (and Probably Not in Full or at Your First-Choice School)p. 221
Chapter 25Gap Years: Great, Sometimes Pricey, Might Help You Get a Better Job Somedayp. 225
Chapter 26Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard: Decent Money, Big Responsibilityp. 230
Chapter 27Skipping College Is Probably Not a Great Ideap. 233
Chapter VThe Plans: Saving, Talking, Touring, Bargaining, and Borrowing
Chapter 28How to Make the Big Financial Planp. 243
Chapter 29How to Have the College Money Talk with Your Childp. 252
Chapter 30All Your Questions About Saving for College and 529 Plansp. 260
Chapter 31How to Shop for College (and Where to Find the Juicy Merit Aid Data)p. 274
Chapter 32When (and How) to Hire an Independent College Counselor or Financial Plannerp. 287
Chapter 33How to Appeal Your Financial Aid Awardp. 293
Chapter 34All the Student Loan Basics in One Tidy Placep. 302
Chapter 35One More Feeling: Hopep. 312
Acknowledgmentsp. 317
Notesp. 323
Bibliographyp. 341
Indexp. 345
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