How To!

How To Pick a College (And Actually Afford It)

Ron Lieber on what you need to know before taking on a ton of debt.

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Episode Notes

College application season is approaching fast—too fast—for 16-yr old Maya and her mother, Melissa. The problem? Maya has no idea where to go or what to study. It doesn’t help that there are thousands of schools to choose from, and little transparency about their true cost. On this episode of How To!, we bring on Ron Lieber, New York Times money columnist and author of The Price You Pay for College. He shows Maya how to narrow down the list of potential colleges by asking insightful questions of the schools and, ultimately, yourself. Then he talks to Melissa about how to pay for it without harming the rest of the family’s finances.

Ron’s questions for parents:

• What do you remember your parent or parents saying to you the first time they talked about what college would cost and what, if anything, they would pay?

• Or if there was silence around the topic of paying for college, what did it speak?

• How much was your parent or your parents willing to pay for your education? How did you feel about that?

• If your parents paid your way, is it possible that you should not feel obligated to do the same, given how much the world has changed?

• And if your parents paid nothing, have you asked yourself whether 15 years of extreme thrift starting now (or going deep into debt 15 years from now to pay for your child’s first-choice college) may not erase whatever pain lingers from that period long ago – or may create new conflict with your spouse and kids?

• How much might you be willing to borrow—or delay repayment of your own student loans?

• How long are you willing to delay retirement to meet this goal?

If you liked this episode, check out: “How To Raise a Future College Athlete.”

Do you have a question without an answer? Send us a note at howto@slate.com or leave us a voicemail at 646-495-4001 and we might have you on the show. Subscribe for free on Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen.

Podcast production by Derek John, Rosemary Belson, and Kevin Bendis.

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About the Show

What if Dear Abby were an investigative reporter? Each week, Amanda Ripley (bestselling author of High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out) takes on listeners’ toughest problems and, with the help of experts, finds the answers to questions you’ve always wanted to ask but couldn’t. Until now.

Do you have a problem that needs solving? Have you found the advice on our podcast helpful? Send us a note at howto@slate.com or leave us a voicemail at 646-495-4001 and we might play it on the air.

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