Paying for the Party
How College Maintains InequalityBook
Two young women, dormitory mates, embark on their education at a big state university. Five years later, one is earning a good salary at a prestigious accounting firm. With no loans to repay, she lives in a fashionable apartment with her fiancé. The other woman, saddled with burdensome debt and a low GPA, is still struggling to finish her degree in tourism. In an era of skyrocketing tuition and mounting concern over whether college is "worth it,"Paying for the Party is an indispensable contribution to the dialogue assessing the state of American higher education. A powerful exposé of unmet obligations and misplaced priorities, it explains in vivid detail why so many leave college with so little to show for it.
Drawing on findings from a five-year interview study, Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton bring us to the campus of "MU," a flagship Midwestern public university, where we follow a group of women drawn into a culture of status seeking and sororities. Mapping different pathways available to MU students, the authors demonstrate that the most well-resourced and seductive route is a "party pathway" anchored in the Greek system and facilitated by the administration. This pathway exerts influence over the academic and social experiences of all students, and while it benefits the affluent and well-connected, Armstrong and Hamilton make clear how it seriously disadvantages the majority.
Eye-opening and provocative, Paying for the Party reveals how outcomes can differ so dramatically for those whom universities enroll.
In an era of skyrocketing tuition and concern over whether college is “worth it,”Paying for the Party is an indispensable contribution to the dialogue assessing the state of American higher education. A powerful exposé of unmet obligations and misplaced priorities, it explains in detail why so many leave college with so little to show for it.
Armstrong (sociology and organizational studies, U. of Michigan) and Hamilton (sociology, UC Merced) present a longitudinal study over the course of five years of social class in a flagship public research university in the Midwest. They focus on a cohort of women living on the same dorm-floor during the 2004-2005 school years, with whom they lived for the year, interviewed, and otherwise ethnographically studied. They argue that college experience and post-college trajectories are influenced by both individual and organizational characteristics. They explore class reproduction through social closure and achievement, as well as modalities of class mobility. They argue that affluent students with middling academic credentials are given preferential treatment both in entry to and the course of college, given how they are the least costly students to admit and educate. This leads them to critically interrogate legacy policies that function as "affirmative action for the rich." They look at women from different ethnic, class, and ideological backgrounds; hierarchical peer cultures; and how a minority of affluent students on their floor dominated the social scene and the long-term consequences of that. Later chapters survey and discuss empirical findings in terms of the close gap between the more and less privileged, as well as otherwise re-engineering schools like the one they studied to serve all students. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)