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Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents Paperback – August 31, 2010
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In keeping with the new frugality, this college guide, written by a senior attending the University of Massachusetts, offers practical advice on how to pay for college without taking out loans. Decidedly old school in approach, Bissonnette advocates that students should bear the brunt of paying for their educations by working while in college and during breaks. He also suggests that attending community college for two years before transferring to a four-year college or university would go a long way toward cutting costs. Systematically and amusingly debunking the selection criteria used by U.S. News and World Report and others to rank elite colleges, Bissonnette is a strong advocate of attending reasonably priced state schools. He makes good points about how debt from student loans often prevents recent grads from starting families or buying homes. He also presents convincing research that elite graduate programs and selective employers accept plenty of people who have attended nonelite schools. Although the strictly dollars-and-cents approach to higher education may not sit well with some parents, this is a timely guide to a decision that has important financial ramifications. --Joanne Wilkinson
"If the National Association for College Admissions Counseling had anticipated the dire consequences of one of the smartest teenagers in America encountering the ill-examined assumptions of their profession, they might have found some way to buy him off, maybe a full ride scholarship to Harvard. Too late. Bissonnette is 21 now, a senior at the University of Massachusetts. He has written the best and most troubling book ever about the college admissions process."
-Jay Mathews, "The Washington Post"
"Let Zac Bissonnette help you plan for college-where to go, what to study, and how to pay for it-and you will finish rich"
-David Bach #1 "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Automatic Millionaire" and "Start Late, Finish Rich"
"In the new economy, your college choice is critical. Zac Bissonnette's "Debt- Free U" is the one book you need to make this life-changing decision-- thoroughly researched, smart, and funny. Grade: A+."
-Ali Rogers, CBS Moneywatch. Author, "Diary of a Real Estate Rookie"
"With Bissonnette, college-bound students and their parents finally have an unbiased source to help make an educated decision about choosing and affording college. Not to mention, his advice can help you pocket tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Want to make a smart investment in this economy? Buy "Debt-Free U"."
-Farnoosh Torabi, financial expert and author of "Psych Yourself Rich"
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Top Customer Reviews
I am a CPA and a financial planner in the Boston, MA area. I see exactly what Zac describes with many families whose financial plans are dominated by education financing at the expense of other goals. I'm blown away by a 22-year old college student being able to accurately identify all of these issues, cut through all the BS spewed by the higher education and college financing industries, and support his assertions and analysis with compelling facts, data and research. I would urge anyone reading this book to not hold Zac's age against his analysis. His analysis is spot-on accurate. In fact, his age is useful for lending credibility to the anecdotes he does mention in the book about campus life and his experiences. He knows what he's talking about because he's living it.
For years, I've struggled with the question of whether you need to attend an expensive college to get a quality college education. It didn't seem right to me, but I didn't have the information to assess this one way or the other. As Zac clearly shows, there are huge industries with tons of money at stake to make people believe that an expensive college is a must for your child's education. As Louis Brandeis said, "sunshine is the best disinfectant". This is one book that is the sunshine that exposes these industries for what they are.
Being in Massachusetts, I would feel very comfortable guiding my children to a Massachusetts public college armed with the information that Zac provides. I would know that I am giving my child every opportunity to have a terrific college experience and a wonderful opportunity for a successful and fulfilling life. UMass should be extremely proud of having Zac as a recent graduate.
This review is from a parent-of-three. Degrees: BS, PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy). Profession: Hospital Pharmacy. Back in the day, I paid for college myself- via working, Pell grants, loans, and merit scholarships. It was hard to finance it all myself, but not as hard as it would be to accomplish today. I pity the kids with unsupportive parents, especially those who might use this book as an excuse to cop out on their kids.
This book is full of much-needed information, especially for parents who are facing this process for the first time. I highlighted all the way through. But, having been through the process (incl. one UMass grad), I have a few observations to make.
First: Zac discourages people from applying to out-of-state universities, because then you would be paying private-school tuition rates. In 2005, Ohio University offered a grant to my son that erased the tuition difference between Ohio U and UMass. This is a common practice, to attract out-of-staters. However it may be true, as Zac mentioned, that the current economy has shrunk these grant offers.
Zac's advice boils down to this: "Get a degree by hook or by crook and as cheaply as possible, in order to get out of school and start achieving your real goal, which is: making money." Zip through in 3 years, skip classes, and take the easiest major that will get you the highest GPA. The diploma is all that counts; education itself is discounted as a necessary evil. Note that Zac is an art history major. I assume this has afforded Zac a high GPA that will get him (along with this book authorship) into a great B-school grad program. It's all about the bottome line, baby! This is great advice for the entrepreneurial types.
It's also great advice for the person who has no parental support and has to make tough choices to cut corners. I was once one of these people- but I didn't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I valued the education highly. My philosophy was, and is, "Learning is never wasted." It is not a waste of your time to be in college- it is the beginning of your lifetime of learning. There is such a tremendous "value-added" to a real education that cannot be measured in money.
Meanwhile, Zac breezes by an entire world of "difficult majors" when he dismisses engineering majors out-of-hand (not enough return on investment, high risk of failure) and overlooks medical careers entirely. But those "difficult majors," really do make paying off those loans much, much easier. I borrowed about 1/3 of the cost of my education and paid it off handily in three years after graduation. The "easy-major, high-GPA" crowd benefits the most from Zac's advice to stay debt-free, as they are likely to have the hardest time recouping the investment.
Zac and I achieved the goal of college-assisted financial security by different approaches: mine was to tackle the hardest subjects, learning as much as I possibly could, and leaving the money part to sort itself out as a corollary. Zac's advice is to focus on the money first, with the education as a corollary. I think that this is good advice for the average college-bound student, but less relevant for the "true learner," who in any case knows how to pick what he needs from Zac's book.
P.S. It's a catchy premise to have Zac's handsome face grace the cover of this book, but do I believe that this 22-y.o. was the sole writer/researcher of this opus? Ha,ha. But my hat is off to Zac for his entrepreneurship. He tapped into a real need, and this very useful body of information deserves to be on the best-seller list. Good job, Zac!