college debt

There are two prices for every college degree: the sticker price and the net price. The sticker price is the number that most schools list in their brochures. The net price is that very same number less scholarships, grants and financial aid. It is what you actually pay. For an incoming freshman, this net price is the number that matters the most, and until recently, it was also the number that we knew the least about.

"The value of my education is priceless, but the value of my education is also not $140,000 in debt."

That was the statement of a Hunter College graduate with a master's degree, as quoted in the documentary Ivory Tower. And a new national poll suggests that thousands of graduates, especially younger graduates, agree with her.

What's the tiniest change you can think of to create the biggest improvement in someone's well-being?

That's the question at the heart of the first annual report by the new Social and Behavioral Sciences Team inside the White House.

This group of scientists has found that simple, small tweaks to existing official messaging can create huge effects on everything from savings to sustainability to fraud.

The US News & World Report Best Colleges rankings, the leaderboard of competitive college admissions, are out this week. And all this week on All Things Considered, we've been talking with students who graduated from high school in Montgomery County, Md., four or five years ago.

So if you add up all the college costs that students and parents probably didn't plan for — the stuff that isn't tuition and room and board — how big is that number? The National Retail Federation estimates that, this year, it will total $43 billion. That's a hard number to grasp, so let's break it down to one family — mine.

With our daughter now beginning her fourth and hopefully final year in college, here's one thing I've learned: No matter how much you plan to spend, it won't cover everything. Not even close.