Recommended Reading: Debt-Free U

One of my financial planning colleagues recently suggested I read Debt-Free U by Zac Bissonnette. Although I was in the middle of three other books, I decided to buy Debt-Free U since I wanted to try out an e-book on my new iPad.

At first, I thought the book was about general debt reduction. Turns out that Debt-Free U is focused on paying for college without going into debt. (The U in the title stands for University.) The full title is Debt-Free U: How I paid for an outstanding college education without loans, scholarships, or mooching off my parents.

The author, Zac Bissonnette, challenges our society’s conventional view on the value of a name-brand college education and on the wisdom of taking out student loans to pay for college. He argues (with supporting data) that post-college success has more to do with the student’s work ethic than which college she attends.

For example, let’s say that your child is smart and diligent enough to get into both Stanford University and the University of Michigan where she qualifies for in-state tuition. Is it worth it for you and her to pay nearly $30,000 more per year* to go to Stanford? Not according to Mr. Bissonnette. (Although he might rethink that after a long winter in Ann Arbor.)

Debt-Free U efficiently covers a lot of ground and will help you think through:

  • How much you can afford to pay for college (spoiler alert: not your “Expected Family Contribution” from the FAFSA),
  • Which colleges provide the best value, and
  • How to pay for college (spoiler alert: not loans).

If you have kids who are nearing college age, Debt-Free U is required reading. I also recommend it to parents of young children who are just getting started planning for college expenses. It may just change your view on how you will pay for college. It changed mine.


* Peterson’s Undergraduate and Graduate Institution Databases