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Paying the Price: Coll...
Sara Goldrick-Rab
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Paying the Price: College Costs and the Betrayal of the American Dream

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  220 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Published September 1st 2016 by University of Chicago Press
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Don Salamon No. It is a look at outcomes for students using financial aid. The implicit assumption, and is discussed towards the end of the book, is that college…moreNo. It is a look at outcomes for students using financial aid. The implicit assumption, and is discussed towards the end of the book, is that college is the most powerful catalyst for social mobility upwards.(less)

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4.14  · 
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 ·  220 ratings  ·  43 reviews

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Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this because although I'm teaching at an American institution right now, I was an undergrad in a different country (one with free tuition), and felt I needed to know more about how financial aid works in the US in order to better understand my students' situation. It turns out that pretty much every teacher in higher ed, regardless of background, needs to read this book. Goldrick Rab presents a damning indictment of the convoluted current system of FAFSA, Pell Grants, work-study placement ...more
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really useful survey data and stats on student loans and how they affect students. My impression after reading the book is that the system is a mess, that students do not have the right information, debt is psychologically and emotionally destructive, and yet it's really important that student loans be available and easy to get because most of these students will not be able to attend college otherwise. And yes, not everyone needs to attend a fancy school, but that's not what they are talking ab ...more
Brady Krien
Sep 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: higher-ed
This is a phenomenal, in-depth look at the way that financial aid functions in the state of Wisconsin and in the United States generally. It is not, as some have suggested, propaganda for free college but a data-driven look at the effectiveness of financial aid systems. Goldrick-Rab does suggest that ultimately, in order to remain competitive globally, a tuition-free system is going to be necessary but the vast majority of the book focuses on the inefficiencies of the financial aid system, the f ...more
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Even though I work in higher education I learned a lot from this book. Some of it was frustrating- e.g. that Ivy League schools with billion dollar endowments receive more work study funds than community colleges where there are more students in need. Some of it was enlightening- e.g how expected family contribution is computed and assumes that parents (including parents who are divorced) will be willing to contribute to their child's education. Some of it hit close to home. The students profile ...more
If you are at all interested in the process of financial aid in higher education, this is a useful book. I work with a lot of college students who depend on financial aid to make higher education and its resulting benefits possible. Goldrick-Rab does a good job explaining why our current system isn't working for many students, why this is so, and she presents some alternative options. I do think it could benefit from additional research into the realities of developmental first year students and ...more
Jonna Higgins-Freese
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A few striking quotes:

"failure to complete does not reflect intellectual ability but, rather, an inability to pay" (239)
"too many students are dropping out of college because they cannot cover their rent, utilities, childcare, gas, or other critical basic needs" 246
"debt is the symptom, not the disease -- the real problem is that college is unaffordable" (241)
"the main barrier to college entry [and completion] is price" (256)

She does not recommend expanding financial aid as we know it, but recon
Terry Brown
Jan 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Must read for anyone who cares about the future of higher education in the United States.
La'Tonya Rease Miles
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reading this book reminded me of watching a seasoned heavy weight fighter, one who grabs you and holds you through 11 rounds and then suddenly--bam!--starts swinging. Hard. Here, the author also takes time to build her argument, to carefully present her argument and then ends with fire. If you have the time, by all means, read the entire thing. But if you want to cut to the chase, skip right to the last chapter (90 footnotes!) and you will find gems like these: "[The financial aid system] allows ...more
Bryan Alexander
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've been blogging extensive notes, reflections, and questions about this important book here.
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great read on the challenges that college students and grads face as they navigate the costs of higher education in the US.
Bryan Alexander
I'm blogging about this book here.
Apr 27, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned, nonfiction
Really interesting look at financial aid's many issues and how they directly impact students' lives in very direct and tangible ways. If you work in higher ed (regardless of position), are thinking of advancing your degree, and/or have kids in or nearly in college, this is a must-read.

Goldrick-Rab examines a diverse group of students in WI and tracks their time in public colleges in the state. Being from WI, I was particularly interested in chapter 8, "City of Broken Dreams," about Milwaukee--t
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Filled with the research results to back up concrete public policy suggestions to improve college access and credential/degree attainment for those with limited financial resources. The author discusses the many costs involved in attending college aside from tuition: transportation, housing, food, books, supplies, clothing/laundry as well as the perils of working while in college and the lost contributions (income, daycare, chores, etc) a family can suffer when a child goes to college. This is m ...more
Dec 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As a first-semester adjunct at community college I was incredibly impressed with the research that went into this book. Reading this book made me empathize and be curious about my students' lives beyond the classroom. I was left wondering if my students who didn't show up for class or who fell asleep or had late assignments did so because of the many similar circumstances presented by the students featured in the author's study. This book is a must-read for every educator, college administrator, ...more
Nov 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
This is the second book I've read this year where the study was done in Wisconsin and the author believes it's representative of the country. Wisconsin is scraping the bottom of the barrel; not to say these aren't massive problems, but you may lose some power in your argument by using the worst case situation. In this instance, the biggest differential is probably how many of the students weren't academically prepared for college, in addition to the monetary problems.

The facts about the downfall
Bookforum Magazine
"Which situation is more intolerable–one in which someone can enjoy a few extra vacations courtesy of the taxpayer, or the current one, in which, according to Goldrick-Rab, large numbers of working class students go hungry? When we're starving students by policy, the policy needs to change."

-Malcolm Harris on Sara Goldrick-Rab's Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream in the Dec/Jan 2017 issue of Bookforum

To read the rest of this review, go to Bookf
Amy Hageman
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this book during our "ice day." It focuses on the lives of first-generation college students who are Pell-grant eligible, intersected with all kinds of data from a representative survey study. I felt like I previously had a good pulse on the struggles and limitations of college costs/affordability, but the book was very well done and eye-opening in many accounts. Recommended if you are interested in understanding higher education.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly researched and clearly written, I loved the overview of college costs and financial aid that Sara presents in this illuminating book. As someone that's worked in higher ed for close to ten years, I found this book so helpful in understanding the politics and policy involved in the rising college costs. If you're interested in understanding how the cost of higher education is impacting the lives of students, this book is for you.
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
By using Wisconsin's higher educational system as a microcosm, Goldrick-Rab's book adds to the conversation about re-imagining how students afford college. It certainly isn't trying to solve all the problems, but open up dialogue about it.

If you are a student, parents of a college student, or a taxpayer; if you work on a college campus, teach students, or are a policy-maker, this book can arm you with evidence to change the way we approach how we fund higher education.
Don Salamon
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great look at the actual lives of students using financial aid, and the shortcomings the system has. Some thoughtful policy recommendations towards the end with examples of states that implement them.

Good for someone that wants to get up to speed on the problems facing poor to middle class students.
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Important and informative look at America's financial system, the ways people use and perceive it, and suggestions for how to fix it. Debunks the idea that poor and underserved people just aren't cut out for college.
Jul 08, 2017 rated it liked it
reports a study of the college financial aid system as it plays out in the lives of a cohort of students from Wisconsin, richly illustrated by following a handful of them through the experience. How does Jane experience the whole rigamarole of learning about aid, applying for it, getting a combo of loans and grants, negotiating with family, securing a part-time job, making classes and all of college life fit around the job and commute, and so on?

different from the focus we often see on a single
Mar 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sara Goldrick-Rab is such a rock star advocate for students, I had to read this book. I've long been confounded by how financial aid really works, and how and why tuition has skyrocketed lately in a way that outpaces inflation and rising incomes. As someone who is saving for a kid to go to college, it feels unattainable (like retirement!). How could I save $25-70k per year x 4? In 10 years will it be $70-120k per year? More?

One idea she touches on that I love and that I've seen is for public 4
Larkin Tackett
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
America’s financial aid system is broken. Higher education professor Sara Goldrick-Rab breaks it all down in gory detail. By following a large cohort of students in Wisconsin, she and her team or researchers expose the system’s design flaws (like spending more work study funding at big institutions with big endowments and few needy students) and tell a few moving stories of students and their families. The bottom line: increases in net tuition prices and non-tuition costs combined with growing w ...more
May 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
Dr. Goldrick-Rab has a lot of interesting ideas. She's right about the financial aid system being inadequate and in desperate need of an update. This is a must-read for anyone interested in higher education finance and policy.

Pros: Dr. Goldrick-Rab identifies a lot of crucial issues regarding college students that are often ignored. The book is clear, concise, and her argument is well-supported by her study. She bring attention to food insecurity, housing, and the way families support each other
Johanna Botzet
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is by the professor, Sara Goldrick-Rab who started the Wisconsin Hope Lab. Her team followed 3,000 college students in the fall of 2008 for six years to see how they faired in college and after. She wanted to know how financial aid did or did not help them during their experience, and why students leave. So many students leave college with debt and no degree and most research on these students end. I highly recommend this book, as it is full of great research and ideas on how to implem ...more
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you are concerned about the affordability of college degrees and the rise of student debt this is a really dense study of Pell recipients and their experiences trying to complete college. My own kids are fast approaching college and it is wildly expensive - somehow we'll manage. But kids without resources are finding it harder and harder to pay to play. The book was also quite depressing. I had not thought, for example, of how students suffering food insecurity in high school would manage to ...more
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Incredibly worthwhile (especially if you're in higher education) and also quite frightening (if you have a child that you'd like to go to college one day). Would have been helpful to have more context/history of the financial aid system, but that's probably just my input-learner-context strengths talking. I'm a little surprised that in the possible solutions she imagined, she didn't even talk about how ridiculous it is that we allow students to be charged higher interest rates than people pay on ...more
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Now more than ever we need to look at education as a public good. Goldrick-Rab's students humanize the very real experience of low income college students. Food insecurity and housing instability plague our students in working and middle class families as well. The current system of federal student aid penalizes low income students and needs to be revamped to provide equal opportunity. If we want to transcend the opportunity costs of low income students and their families we must provide support ...more
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Loved it! It was enlightening in the ways Goldrick-Rab and her team tracked college students struggling with poverty. College age poverty has become an accepted part of society, but Goldrick points to key statistics, quality of life factors, and personal interviews to challenge that notion and pulls at your heart strings. In the end, she provided possible solutions to the problems identified.

The book was additionally interesting as it focuses on Wisconsin from 2009-2014, a time when the state f
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