Zac Bissonnette, in his excellent book Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents, debunks the overly hyped U.S. News & World Report college ranking, metric by metric. Then he notes:
But the larger problem with ranking colleges is that it is based on the premise that attending college is like an amusement park ride: a passive experience where the student picks the most thrilling ride he can handle, straps in, and holds on to his digital camera. College is nothing like that….What they get out of their education is a function of the effort they put in.
But what’s really fascinating about Bissonnette’s book is that he paid for his college education entirely on his own (and even wrote the book before graduating). He does an excellent job dealing with the issue of affordability and the enormous danger that student loans present (particularly in a down economy).
I don’t agree with all his conclusions. For example, he thinks that public universities are superior to private schools, mainly because of affordability. And he seems to think campus visitations are a worthless exercise for prospective students. I see his point in one sense–students often put too much stock in their subjective impressions of the campus–but I’m not sure it’s wise to completely throw out the baby with the bath water. Nevertheless, all around this is an excellent book for parents and students considering the important question of how to pay for an increasingly expensive college degree.