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Book Review

Investing in College: A Guide for the Perplexed

College education is one of the most important investments a family will make. But between the viewbooks, websites, insider gossip, and magazine rankings, students and their worried parents face a dizzying array of options. What do the rankings really mean? Is it wise to choose the most prestigious school a student can get into? What are the payoffs of higher education, and, by the way, how do we pay for them?

In a unique approach to these conundrums, an economist and award-winning teacher walks readers through the opportunities, risks, and rewards of heading off to college. Warning against the pitfalls of numerical rankings, Malcolm Getz poses questions to guide a student toward not necessarily the best college but the right one. Famous professors suggest quality--but do they teach undergraduates? Are smaller classes always better? When is a state university the best deal around?

In a concise overview of decades of research, Getz reviews findings on the long-term returns of college education in different careers, from law to engineering, from nursing to financial management. Sorting through personal, professional, and institutional variables, he helps families determine when paying $40,000 a year might make sense, and when it merely buys an expensive rear window decal. He breaks down the formidable admissions game into strategies to improve the odds of acceptance, and he offers tips on tax breaks, subsidized loans, federal grants, 529 accounts, merit scholarships, and much more.

Shrewd and sensible, this book is a valuable resource and a beacon of sanity for college-bound students and the families who support them.