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Will College Pay Off?

A Guide to the Most Important Financial Decision You'll Ever Make

Peter Cappelli

The decision of whether to go to college, or where, is hampered by poor information and inadequate understanding of the financial risk involved.

Adding to the confusion, the same degree can cost dramatically different amounts for different people. A barrage of advertising offers new degrees designed to lead to specific jobs, but we see no information on whether graduates ever get those jobs. Mix in a frenzied applications process, and pressure from politicians for “relevant” programs, and there is an urgent need to separate myth from reality.

Peter Cappelli, an acclaimed expert in employment trends, the workforce, and education, provides hard evidence that counters conventional wisdom and helps us make cost-effective choices. Among the issues Cappelli analyzes are:

  • What is the real link between a college degree and a job that enables you to pay off the cost of college, especially in a market that is in constant change?
  • Why it may be a mistake to pursue degrees that will land you the hottest jobs because what is hot today is unlikely to be so by the time you graduate.
  • Why the most expensive colleges may actually be the cheapest because of their ability to graduate students on time.
  • How parents and students can find out what different colleges actually deliver to students and whether it is something that employers really want.

College is the biggest expense for many families, larger even than the cost of the family home, and one that can bankrupt students and their parents if it works out poorly. Peter Cappelli offers vital insight for parents and students to make decisions that both make sense financially and provide the foundation that will help students make their way in the world.

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About the Author

Peter Cappelli

Peter Cappelli is the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School and Director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources. His recent research examines changes in employment relations in the U.S. and their implications. Cappelli writes a monthly column on workforce issues for Human Resource Executive Online and has contributed to the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek, and other news venues. His books include Managing the Older Worker: How to Prepare for the New Organizational Order (with Harbir Singh, Jitendra Singh, and Michael Useem), The India Way: How India’s Business Leaders are Revolutionizing Management, Talent on Demand: Managing Talent in the Age of Uncertainty, and The New Deal at Work: Managing the Market-Driven Workforce. ... More

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