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

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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.

About the Author


Ron Lieber is the author of The Opposite of Spoiled and is the Your Money columnist for the New York Times. Three of his books have been New York Times bestsellers, and he is a three-time winner of the Gerald Loeb Award, business journalism’s highest honor. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor, and their two daughters.

Praise For…


“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

“Lieber’s explanation of the system is probably the best I’ve seen from somebody outside it. His discussion of 'merit aid' even helped clarify some long-running arguments that have been mildly confusing me in faculty meetings for twenty years.” — Forbes

“A deeply reported, conventional-wisdom-busting guide to a subject that many of even the most financially adept and prepared individuals find terrifying. The book arrives at a moment when families are re-scrutinizing the price schools charge for tuition; how much debt students take on, and what exactly is worth the money and why.” — Town & Country

"An impressively thorough and genuinely useful manual for people staring up the sheer cliff of college tuition payments . . . It also contains an implicit analysis and critique of higher education as a system, by acknowledging the inequities that exist at every level from recruitment to admissions to financial aid. It’s a how-to book that will also make you think, 'But why?'" — New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice

"Aims to provide parents and students financing their own way with the information they need to make more informed, financially sound goals and decisions." — Fortune

"Lieber helps families navigate this all-important financial decision by pulling back the curtain on the financial aid system and asking tough questions of financial aid gatekeepers. The end result is a book that helps families determine what they value—a metric even more important than the sticker tag of college." — Forbes (9 College Admissions Books for the Post-Pandemic Era)

“Ron Lieber is a gift.” — Scott Galloway, author of Post Corona and The Four

“Ron will hold you by the hand, by the heart and by the head.” — Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult

“Books like these are conversation grenades. You throw them in a room and conversations break out.” — Carl Richards, author of The Behavior Gap

"[The Price You Pay for College] outlines higher education pricing dynamics with painstaking care and clarity. . . . Lieber offers an essential guidebook for helping each student to find their path forward.  — John Lewis, Head of School, The Gunston School 

“If you have a teen headed for college in a few years, you literally can’t afford to skip this candid guide by The New York Times' 'Your Money' columnist Ron Lieber. He grills college presidents and financial aid gatekeepers to answer all your biggest questions about the right ways to save, borrow and bargain for a better deal." — Audrey Goodson Kingo, Working Mother Magazine



Product Details
ISBN: 9780062867308
ISBN-10: 006286730X
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: January 26th, 2021
Pages: 368
Language: English