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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.
This edited volume proposes that the phenomenon of private sector, financialized higher education expansion in the United States benefits from a range of theoretical and methodological treatments. Social scientists, policy analysts, researchers, and for-profit sector leaders discuss how and to what ends for-profit colleges are a functional social good. The chapters include discussions of inequality, stratification, and legitimacy, differing greatly from other work on for-profit colleges in three ways: First, this volume moves beyond rational choice explanations of for-profit expansion to include critical theoretical work. Second, it deals with the nuances of race, class, and gender in ways absent from other research. Finally, the book's interdisciplinary focus is uniquely equipped to deal with the complexity of high-cost, low-status, for-profit credentialism at a scale never before seen.
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.
Looks at the educational experiences of poor, working class, and middle class students against the backdrop of complicated class stratification in a shifting global economy.
Featuring extensive reviews of the literature, this volume will be invaluable for scholars and students of sociology and higher education.

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