The Price You Pay for College: An Entirely New Road Map for the Biggest Financial Decision Your Family Will Ever Make

The Price You Pay for College: An Entirely New Road Map for the Biggest Financial Decision Your Family Will Ever Make

by Ron Lieber


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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. 

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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062867308
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/26/2021
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 8,646
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Ron Lieber is the "Your Money" columnist for The New York Times. Before joining The Times in 2008, he wrote The Wall Street Journal's "Green Thumb" personal finance column, was part of the start-up team at the paper's "Personal Journal" section, and worked at Fortune and Fast Company magazines. He is the author or coauthor of three books, including The New York Times bestseller Taking Time Off. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, fellow New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, and their daughter.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter I The Price and Cost of College and the Systems Behind It

Chapter 1 Who Pays What and Why the Price Is So High 15

Chapter 2 FAFSA and Its Expected Family Contribution Will Probably Make You Furious; Blame the Federal Government's Great Expectations 23

Chapter 3 How (and Why) Merit Aid Became Mainstream 34

Chapter 4 The Billion-Dollar Consultants Who Are Wooing You 42

Chapter 5 But Wait, Isn't Tuition a Bubble, and All of Higher Education Is Going to Come Apart at the Seams? 57

Chapter II The Unhelpful Feelings You May Feel

Chapter 6 Fear 71

Chapter 7 Guilt 76

Chapter 8 The Pull of Snobbery and Elitism 85

Chapter III Value: Things Worth Paying For

Chapter 9 Classrooms Where Experienced Instructors Have Time to Teach (and Actually Want To) 97

Chapter 10 Schools Where Students Learn (Because Many of Them Don't) HO

Chapter 11 Undergraduate Mental Health Centers That Are Not in Crisis 116

Chapter 12 Peers Worth Friending (or Marrying) 126

Chapter 13 The Special Power of Women's Colleges 136

Chapter 14 Diversity in All Its Forms 140

Chapter 15 How and When Small School Size Matters 149

Chapter 16 Amenities (but Is a Lazy River a Plus?) 160

Chapter 17 Genuinely Reinvented Career Counseling Offices 168

Chapter 18 Places That Create Better Odds When Applying to Grad School 177

Chapter 19 Better Salaries When You Finish-if You Finish 181

Chapter 20 How the College of Wooster Puts It All Together 187

Chapter Iv Money-Saving Hacks That Will Tempt You

Chapter 21 Community College Will Save You Money, but What Might You Lose? 199

Chapter 22 Honors Colleges and Programs Make Bigger Schools Smaller-if You Stick with the Program 207

Chapter 23 Attending College Abroad Is Often Cheaper, but You Won't Get What You Don't Pay For 214

Chapter 24 Athletic Scholarships for the Few (and Probably Not in Full or at Your First-Choice School) 221

Chapter 25 Gap Years: Great, Sometimes Pricey, Might Help You Get a Better Job Someday 225

Chapter 26 Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard: Decent Money, Big Responsibility 230

Chapter 27 Skipping College Is Probably Not a Great Idea 233

Chapter V The Plans: Saving, Talking, Touring, Bargaining, and Borrowing

Chapter 28 How to Make the Big Financial Plan 243

Chapter 29 How to Have the College Money Talk with Your Child 252

Chapter 30 All Your Questions About Saving for College and 529 Plans 260

Chapter 31 How to Shop for College (and Where to Find the Juicy Merit Aid Data) 274

Chapter 32 When (and How) to Hire an Independent College Counselor or Financial Planner 287

Chapter 33 How to Appeal Your Financial Aid Award 293

Chapter 34 All the Student Loan Basics in One Tidy Place 302

Chapter 35 One More Feeling: Hope 312

Acknowledgments 317

Notes 323

Bibliography 341

Index 345

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