Paying for the party How college maintains inequality

Elizabeth A. Armstrong

Book - 2013

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Subjects
Published
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press [2013]
Language
English
Physical Description
xv, 326 pages ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780674049574
0674049578
Main Author
Elizabeth A. Armstrong (author)
Other Authors
Laura T. (Laura Teresa) Hamilton (author)
  • The women
  • The party pathway
  • Rush and the party scene
  • The floor
  • Socialites, wannabes, and fit with the party pathway
  • Strivers, creaming, and the blocked mobility pathway
  • Achievers, underachievers, and the professional pathway
  • College pathways and post-college prospects
  • Politics and pathways.
Review by Booklist Reviews

In typical frat parties, Armstrong and Hamilton see much that is wrong with college education today. Such parties allow daughters of the affluent to flaunt their social advantages while exposing the vulnerabilities of female students from less-privileged backgrounds. Unfortunately, the authors find such parties well established in the "party pathway" through the university. Focusing on female students, the authors find from campus observations and interviews ample evidence that four years on the party pathway will open doors of power for the elite while stranding the wannabes with mountains of student-loan debt and few employment options for paying off that debt. The authors suggest a number of reforms—including the abolition of Greek fraternities, the termination of legacy admissions for the offspring of rich alumni, and the replacement of the college "party pathway" with a "mobility pathway" giving struggling students generous financial aid, supportive remedial courses, and a direct path to good careers. A provocative exposé of socially polarizing trends in higher education—certain to spark debate. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Researchers Armstrong (sociology, Univ. of Michigan) and Hamilton (sociology, Univ. of Calif., Merced) offer data and commentary on their five-year comprehensive ethnographic study on how the structures of higher education encourage social inequality, especially among women. Focusing on the pathways leading to the college experience, the authors reveal an honest, if at times unflattering, look at the reality of the academic experience for women of both high and low socioeconomic status. Packed in with the data derived from the authors' interviews is an intimate portrait of the study's participants combined with researcher commentary that clarifies what the data represent: an unsettling picture of universities failing to lessen the disadvantages facing many of their students. VERDICT For the advanced researcher or graduate student who is willing to trample through dense text this work will provide spectacular insights into gender and schooling and serve as a useful example of how to report ethnographic research.—Rachel Wadham, Brigham Young Univ. Libs., Provo, UT [Page 85]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Though this book's data came from a study of women and sexuality at college, what emerged was a study of social and academic infrastructure at an unidentified Midwestern university. University of Michigan sociologist Armstrong and University of California-Merced sociologist Hamilton spent over five years tracking the lives of female students from one floor of a university dorm. The preface describes the authors' experiences of "studying up"—learning about a more elite population—which compelled Armstrong to purchase new clothes on her way to interviews and Hamilton to grow out her hair. Their study reveals the effects of differing parental, social, and financial standing among students. A particular focus of sample group is the "party pathway," with an entire chapter is dedicated to the hierarchy associated with wealth and social interactions as seen through this activity. Armstrong and Hamilton pepper the book with student interviews, and ultimately suggest substantial changes to university structure for creating an egalitarian, merit-based environment. The extensive research and approachable writing style make this book useful to any audience interested in learning more about social differences within the education system. (Apr.) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Though this book's data came from a study of women and sexuality at college, what emerged was a study of social and academic infrastructure at an unidentified Midwestern university. University of Michigan sociologist Armstrong and University of California-Merced sociologist Hamilton spent over five years tracking the lives of female students from one floor of a university dorm. The preface describes the authors' experiences of "studying up"—learning about a more elite population—which compelled Armstrong to purchase new clothes on her way to interviews and Hamilton to grow out her hair. Their study reveals the effects of differing parental, social, and financial standing among students. A particular focus of sample group is the "party pathway," with an entire chapter is dedicated to the hierarchy associated with wealth and social interactions as seen through this activity. Armstrong and Hamilton pepper the book with student interviews, and ultimately suggest substantial changes to university structure for creating an egalitarian, merit-based environment. The extensive research and approachable writing style make this book useful to any audience interested in learning more about social differences within the education system. (Apr.) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

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)

Review by Publisher Summary 2

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.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

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.