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“The best book yet on the complex lives and choices of for-profit students.” —The New York Times Book Review As featured on The Daily Show, NPR’s Marketplace, and Fresh Air, the “powerful, chilling tale” (Carol Anderson, author of White Rage) of higher education becoming an engine of social inequality “p>Lower Ed is quickly becoming the definitive book on the fastest-growing sector of higher education at the turn of the twenty-first century: for-profit colleges. With sharp insight and deliberate acumen, Tressie McMillan Cottom—a sociologist who was once a recruiter at two for-profit colleges—expertly parses the fraught dynamics of this big-money industry. Drawing on more than one hundred interviews with students, employees, executives, and activists, Lower Ed details the benefits, pitfalls, and real costs of the expansion of for-profit colleges. Now with a new foreword by Stephanie Kelton, economic advisor to Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, this smart and essential book cuts to the very core of our nation’s broken social contracts and the challenges we face in our divided, unequal society.
“The best book yet on the complex lives and choices of for-profit students.” —The New York Times Book Review More than two million students are enrolled in for-profit colleges, from the small family-run operations to the behemoths brandished on billboards, subway ads, and late-night commercials. These schools have been around just as long as their bucolic not-for-profit counterparts, yet shockingly little is known about why they have expanded so rapidly in recent years—during the so-called Wall Street era of for-profit colleges. In Lower Ed Tressie McMillan Cottom—a bold and rising public scholar, herself once a recruiter at two for-profit colleges—expertly parses the fraught dynamics of this big-money industry to show precisely how it is part and parcel of the growing inequality plaguing the country today. McMillan Cottom discloses the shrewd recruitment and marketing strategies that these schools deploy and explains how, despite the well-documented predatory practices of some and the campus closings of others, ending for-profit colleges won’t end the vulnerabilities that made them the fastest growing sector of higher education at the turn of the twenty-first century. And she doesn’t stop there. With sharp insight and deliberate acumen, McMillan Cottom delivers a comprehensive view of postsecondary for-profit education by illuminating the experiences of the everyday people behind the shareholder earnings, congressional battles, and student debt disasters. The relatable human stories in Lower Ed—from mothers struggling to pay for beauty school to working class guys seeking “good jobs” to accomplished professionals pursuing doctoral degrees—illustrate that the growth of for-profit colleges is inextricably linked to larger questions of race, gender, work, and the promise of opportunity in America. Drawing on more than one hundred interviews with students, employees, executives, and activists, Lower Ed tells the story of the benefits, pitfalls, and real costs of a for-profit education. It is a story about broken social contracts; about education transforming from a public interest to a private gain; and about all Americans and the challenges we face in our divided, unequal society.
"The best book yet on the complex lives and choices of for-profit students." --The New York Times Book Review As featured on The Daily Show, NPR's Marketplace, and Fresh Air, the "powerful, chilling tale" (Carol Anderson, author of White Rage) of higher education becoming an engine of social inequality Published to rave reviews and a flurry of media buzz--including a laudatory tweet from none other than Oprah herself--Lower Ed is quickly becoming the definitive book on an economic and social phenomenon that has shaken the very core of opportunity in America. With sharp insight and deliberate acumen, Tressie McMillan Cottom, an associate professor of sociology who was once a recruiter at two for-profit colleges, expertly parses the fraught dynamics of the big-money industry of for-profit colleges, the fastest-growing sector of higher education at the turn of the twenty-first century. Drawing on more than one hundred interviews with students, employees, executives, and activists, Lower Ed details the benefits, pitfalls, and real costs of the expansion of for-profit colleges. Featured by Newsweek, The Atlantic, Vibe magazine, Mother Jones, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Slate, Pacific Standard, and several other outlets, this is a smart, essential look at our nation's broken social contracts and the challenges we face in our divided, unequal society.
One of the most sustained and vigorous public debates today is about the value and, crucially, the price of college. But an unspoken, outdated assumption underlies all sides of this debate: if a young person works hard enough, they'll be able to get a college degree and be on the path to a good life. That's simply not true anymore, says Sara Goldrick-Rab. Quite simply, college is far too expensive for many people today, and the confusing mix of federal, state, institutional, and private financial aid leaves countless students without the resources they need to pay for it. Drawing on a study of 3,000 young adults who entered public colleges and universities in Wisconsin in 2008 with the support of federal aid and Pell Grants, Goldrick-Rab reveals the devastating effect of these shortfalls. She believes America can fix this problem. In the final section of the book, Goldrick-Rab offers a range of possible solutions.
Featuring extensive reviews of the literature, this volume will be invaluable for scholars and students of sociology and higher education.
As much as we think we know about the modern university, very little has been said about what it's like to work there. Instead of the high-wage, high-profit world of knowledge work, most campus employees—including the vast majority of faculty—really work in the low-wage, low-profit sphere of the service economy. Tenure-track positions are at an all-time low, with adjuncts and graduate students teaching the majority of courses. This super-exploited corps of disposable workers commonly earn fewer than $16,000 annually, without benefits, teaching as many as eight classes per year. Even undergraduates are being exploited as a low-cost, disposable workforce. Marc Bousquet, a major figure in the academic labor movement, exposes the seamy underbelly of higher education—a world where faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates work long hours for fast-food wages. Assessing the costs of higher education’s corporatization on faculty and students at every level, How the University Works is urgent reading for anyone interested in the fate of the university.
In real life, Stevens is a professor at Stanford University. But for a year and a half, he worked in the admissions office of a bucolic New England college known for its high academic standards, beautiful campus, and social conscience. Ambitious high schoolers and savvy guidance counselors know that admission here is highly competitive. But creating classes, Stevens finds, is a lot more complicated than most people imagine.

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