With a title like Screw College Debt: How to Go to College Without Breaking the Bank (Ascendant Press; $16.95), who wouldn’t want to read this book? Written by Marco LeRoc, a former international student from the Togolese Republic (Togo) who found himself more than $30,000 in student loan debt after his freshman year at Bellevue University in Nebraska, it is a useful though somewhat thin read.
The book appears well sourced. He covers the problem of higher education—the issues of cost, lack of college planning, the effect of debt on the economy, even the antagonism some hold toward the idea of college—because of its great cost and the albatross of student loan debt. He admits that many are asking if college is still worth it, and though he concedes that college probably isn’t for everyone, he calls higher education “important” and instead asks other questions: Why do you want to go to college, and how can you get value out of it?
The scope of the book is fairly broad: After two chapters that make the case for a college education, he discusses preparing for college, funding alternatives (community college, scholarships, the military, working your way through, etc.), online learning, debt repayment, and effectual money management. LeRoc writes well, if a bit breezily, and his personality and passion for financial competence shine through. In the back he lists recommended books and websites, and lists sites that sell low-priced textbooks—a nice, practical feature. There’s just one problem: I felt as if I could have found most of what is in the book on the Internet myself. The advantage of his book, of course, is that you don’t have to do the research yourself, and all the information is in one place.
LeRoc’s own journey is inspiring: When he realized he could save money and learn from the same professors if he enrolled in a local community college, he wasted no time transferring. He writes, “Where I come from, having debt for any reason is a terrible thing”—a refreshing perspective in the U.S., a country where debt, especially student debt, is considered normal, even necessary. His experience even caused him to change his major to economics, so he could better grasp how money works.
Screw College Debt, an inspiring, provocative, though somewhat thin book, contributes to the important conversation that asks why take on college debt at all?
Other books you may want to consult in addition to Screw College Debt:
A substantial book, Cliff Notes Graduation Debt: How to Manage Student Loans and Live Your Life, by Reyna Gobel, offers a lot of information. Gobel suggests constructing charts of your loans to help you keep track.
The Princeton Review’s Paying for College Without Going Broke is another substantive book. Its tone is one of informing you as the reader so you can control the process. More than once it says, “The people who receive the most aid are the people who best understand the aid process.” It also has a nifty companion website: www.princetonreview.com/financialaidupdate.