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Previously published as part of HIGHER EDUCATION?

A quarter of a million dollars. It's the going tab for four years at most top-tier colleges. But is it worth it?

In this provocative work, the renowned sociologist Andrew Hacker and New York Times writer Claudia Dreifus investigate whether the most high-ranking and sought-after American colleges and universities are worth their haloed reputations. Hacker and Dreifus refer to this top-tier group as "the Golden Dozen"—the top twelve ultra-desired schools that inspire the fiercest competition and elitist devotion amongst college applicants and their parents.

But what exactly are these applicants and their parents embracing when they anxiously seek admission to the Golden Dozen? Do these schools really represent the "best" education in the nation? And what does "the best" mean anyway?

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