Will College Pay Off?

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


By Peter Cappelli

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$32.50 CAD



  1. Hardcover $25.99 $32.50 CAD
  2. ebook $17.99 $22.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around June 9, 2015. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

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.


  • “If you want to figure out what to do with your life—or help your child do the same—Cappelli tells you what you need to know. College is a sweet deal for kids who hit the trifecta: attend a reasonably priced, reputable school, choose a high-earning major, finish on time. Otherwise, buyer beware.” —Barron's

    “[A]stutely examines the enduring relevance of a college degree... [I]lluminating statistical and survey data… Cappelli's eye-opening report card on the current state of American education gives mounting tuitions a failing grade... Salient reading for students, parents, and educators on navigating toward a coveted college degree.”—Kirkus Reviews

    “A valuable, commonsensical analysis of an ever-more-important subject.”—Booklist

    “Cappelli's well-reasoned and documented answer helps families evaluate their options in terms of their individual financial situation. VERDICT Academic and yet highly readable, Cappelli's book provides nothing short of consumer protection to families and their students as he addresses the complexities of the higher education marketplace, the unpredictable job market, and the cost of college.”—Library Journal
  • “It's precisely the right moment for a book to help 18-year-olds and their parents make this important educational and financial decision... Cappelli offers some good tips: Student loans are stickier than a mortgage: You can't escape them with bankruptcy, and you may find your wages garnished if you try to walk away from them, never mind your bad credit rating. Don't rely on data released by colleges, particularly employment rates, which are often calculated based on dubious self-reporting surveys. When you visit a school, check out the tutoring center and see if anyone is around to help; it's a good proxy for the campus support system. Most important, finish on time. A surefire way to erode your return on college is to graduate late or not at all.” —Wall Street Journal

    “Thought-provoking work... The author notes that sending children to college is a huge expense that hurts many families' ability to meet other important needs, such as retirement. His focus is primarily on the US higher education system but many of the themes are universal.” —Emma Jacobs, Financial Times

    “Informative and refreshingly skeptical.” —John Cassidy, The New Yorker

On Sale
Jun 9, 2015
Page Count
224 pages

Peter Cappelli

About the Author

Peter Cappelli is George W. Taylor Professor of Management and director of the Center for Human Resources, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

Learn more about this author