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How the heck are you supposed to pay for college?

It can take hundreds of thousands of dollars to send a child to college these days. Ron Lieber, Your Money columnist for The New York Times, joins host Krys Boyd to discuss the complicated financial aid process, ways to tap into merit aid and similar discounts, and lessons on value vs. price for the best college deal. His book is “The Price You Pay for College: An Entirely New Road Map for the Biggest Financial Decision Your Family Will Ever Make.”

Bonus Blog: Early-decision students can still shop around for the best tuition price 

Today, going to college is considered more than a rite of passage, it’s an economic necessity. But students and their families know it costs a lot to get a higher education. So how do you pay? 

In this podcast, New York Times Your Money columnist Ron Lieber explains that when the cost of college is an issue, it’s always a good idea to shop around. But for students who apply for an early decision to a university, shopping around for better tuition prices at other schools might feel like it’s not an option—surprisingly, that’s not the case. Lieber explains why early decisions can put pressure on students and their families. 

“The schools are trying to — and these are generally more selective schools that have the market power to kind of lock people in — they’re basically saying, ‘Okay, you apply early and, you know, if we let you in, in December, you’ve got to come and you’ve basically got to pay, you know, whatever it is that we ask you to pay,’” Lieber explains. “Often, it’s a much more affluent group of people who are applying early decision.” 

But for students who can’t afford the final tuition cost presented to them when they receive their early decision, there is no binding contract. 

“If you feel like you need financial aid, you’re sort of in a pickle because you’re worried that you might get lowballed, right?” Lieber says. “And then you won’t be able to afford the offer and then you’re stuck. Well, it turns out that these early decision commitments are not binding if you cannot afford to pay what you’re asked.”  

Click the play button above to listen to our full conversation with Ron Lieber. Don’t forget to follow Think on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and all of your favorite podcast streaming platforms. Plus, subscribe to our new Think newsletter to get notes from Krys, see what she’s been reading lately and check out what we have planned for upcoming episodes.

Additional Resources: 

Early Decision Isn’t Binding. Let Us Explain. 

How Applying Early for College Affects Financial Aid

—Cristin Espinosa, Digital Producer for Think