Book Review: Barron’s Best Buys in College Education

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Friends of ours are in a panic because they have one year to go before the oldest of their three children heads off to college. He is a gifted student and may be eligible for some scholarships, but his family makes a bit too much money to qualify for most student aid.

That means the family is looking at paying more than $40,000 per year for college over the next four years if “junior” follows through with attending nearby Duke University and living on campus. But, before he does that I think I’ll share with his family my copy of Barron’s Best Buys in College Education (2010 | Barron’s) first.

That reference book, which was first compiled in 1990, has been updated in 2010 for its eleventh edition. As always, it features high quality colleges and universities, priced at levels most families can afford. That’s good news because sticker shock seems to be a generally expected occurrence these days.

Best Buys

Find a first-class education at a price you can afford is the tagline for this book which offers a state-by-state breakdown of “best buys.” Though I now live in North Carolina, I decided to see which schools in my native New Jersey are listed and found the two I expected to appear: The College of New Jersey in Ewing and Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

Both these schools offer above average education without busting the bank, although families will take note that when living on campus the cost for each school can increase to more than $20,000 annually for in-state students. But, that amount is half what a New Jersey kid would pay at Princeton which is what this reference book is all about: finding equivalent education and paying less for it.

Detailed Information

“Best Buys” gives detailed information about each school, but starts out by sharing five “quick lists” to help narrow down the selection. Those lists feature schools with 20,000 or more students, 1,000 or fewer students, colleges charging under $15,000 annually, schools dominated by single-sex enrollment and colleges with chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, the national honor society.

Enough information is presented about a school to help prospective students narrow their list quickly. Barron’s explains whether the school is in an urban, suburban or rural location, who controls the college, breakdown of enrollment by gender, graduate enrollment, student/faculty ratio, freshmen profile, faculty profile, tuition and fees, room and board, freshmen financial aid, campus jobs, application deadline, financial aid deadline and admissions information.

Further, Barron’s tells a story about the college to give the reader an important backdrop on how the school formed and important factors students look at including facilities, special programs, campus life, how many students return for their sophomore year, payoff (pay attention to this section, parents!) and bottom line — what an education at that school has to offer.

The Bottomline

Best Buys offers something college-bound families need to know and that is a top-notch education can be had for less money. Skyrocketing tuition means students need to explore all of their options, Best Buys in College Education makes it easier to narrow that list down.

Adv. — Are you coming up short financially this semester? A Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan is one option to consider to help you close the financing gap.

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Categories: Book Reviews