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.
Helicopter parents—the kind that continue to hover even in college—are one of the most ridiculed figures of twenty-first-century parenting, criticized for creating entitled young adults who boomerang back home. But do involved parents really damage their children and burden universities? In this book, sociologist Laura T. Hamilton illuminates the lives of young women and their families to ask just what role parents play during the crucial college years. Hamilton vividly captures the parenting approaches of mothers and fathers from all walks of life—from a CFO for a Fortune 500 company to a waitress at a roadside diner. As she shows, parents are guided by different visions of the ideal college experience, built around classed notions of women’s work/family plans and the ideal age to “grow up.” Some are intensively involved and hold adulthood at bay to cultivate specific traits: professional helicopters, for instance, help develop the skills and credentials that will advance their daughters’ careers, while pink helicopters emphasize appearance, charm, and social ties in the hopes that women will secure a wealthy mate. In sharp contrast, bystander parents—whose influence is often limited by economic concerns—are relegated to the sidelines of their daughter’s lives. Finally, paramedic parents—who can come from a wide range of class backgrounds—sit in the middle, intervening in emergencies but otherwise valuing self-sufficiency above all. Analyzing the effects of each of these approaches with clarity and depth, Hamilton ultimately argues that successfully navigating many colleges and universities without involved parents is nearly impossible, and that schools themselves are increasingly dependent on active parents for a wide array of tasks, with intended and unintended consequences. Altogether, Parenting to a Degree offers an incisive look into the new—and sometimes problematic—relationship between students, parents, and universities.
Constrained by shrinking budgets, can colleges do more to improve the quality of education? And can students get more out of college without paying higher tuition? Daniel Chambliss and Christopher Takacs conclude that limited resources need not diminish the undergraduate experience. How College Works reveals the decisive role that personal relationships play in determining a student's success, and puts forward a set of small, inexpensive interventions that yield substantial improvements in educational outcomes. At a liberal arts college in New York, the authors followed nearly one hundred students over eight years. The curricular and technological innovations beloved by administrators mattered much less than did professors and peers, especially early on. At every turning point in undergraduate lives, it was the people, not the programs, that proved critical. Great teachers were more important than the topics studied, and just two or three good friendships made a significant difference academically as well as socially. For most students, college works best when it provides the daily motivation to learn, not just access to information. Improving higher education means focusing on the quality of relationships with mentors and classmates, for when students form the right bonds, they make the most of their education.
A New York Times bestseller and “a passionate, urgent” (The New Yorker) examination of the growing inequality gap from the bestselling author of Bowling Alone: why fewer Americans today have the opportunity for upward mobility. Central to the very idea of America is the principle that we are a nation of opportunity. But over the last quarter century we have seen a disturbing “opportunity gap” emerge. We Americans have always believed that those who have talent and try hard will succeed, but this central tenet of the American Dream seems no longer true or at the least, much less true than it was. In Our Kids, Robert Putnam offers a personal and authoritative look at this new American crisis, beginning with the example of his high school class of 1959 in Port Clinton, Ohio. The vast majority of those students went on to lives better than those of their parents. But their children and grandchildren have faced diminishing prospects. Putnam tells the tale of lessening opportunity through poignant life stories of rich, middle class, and poor kids from cities and suburbs across the country, brilliantly blended with the latest social-science research. “A truly masterful volume” (Financial Times), Our Kids provides a disturbing account of the American dream that is “thoughtful and persuasive” (The Economist). Our Kids offers a rare combination of individual testimony and rigorous evidence: “No one can finish this book and feel complacent about equal opportunity” (The New York Times Book Review).
Professors and Their Politics tackles the assumption that universities are ivory towers of radicalism with the potential to corrupt conservative youth. Neil Gross and Solon Simmons gather the work of leading sociologists, historians, and other researchers interested in the relationship between politics and higher education to present evidence to the contrary. In eleven meaty chapters, contributors describe the political makeup of American academia today, consider the causes of its liberal tilt, discuss the college experience for politically conservative students, and delve into historical debates about professorial politics. Offering readable, rigorous analyses rather than polemics, Professors and Their Politics yields important new insights into the nature of higher education institutions while challenging dogmas of both the left and the right.
The recent trend of trying to measure higher educationâ€™s return on investment misses a fundamental point, argue Charity Johansson and Peter Felten. The central purpose of a college or university is to transform the lives of studentsâ€”not to merely change them or help them mature. This transformation is an ongoing process of intentionally aligning oneâ€™s behavior with oneâ€™s core sense of personal identity. It is the universityâ€™s central role to lead students in this transformation, a process that shapes students into intentional, critical, and engaged individuals. Recognizing the remarkable influence of the college experience on peoplesâ€™ lives, the authors offer a guide to how colleges and universities can effectively lead students through this life-changing process. Drawn from extensive interviews with students and graduates, faculty and staff, Transforming Students gathers diverse stories to show how students experience the transformation process, which rarely follows a neat or linear path. The interviews illustrate central themes from the literature on transformative learning and the undergraduate student experience. A sequel of sorts to George Kellerâ€™s classic Transforming a Collegeâ€”which chronicled Elon Universityâ€™s metamorphosis from struggling college to a top regional universityâ€” Transforming Students addresses the schoolâ€™s core educational mission: to shape students into engaged adults who embrace learning as a lifelong endeavor. Given this effect, the college experience is much more than preparation for a career. It is preparation for life.
The University of Michigan clearly qualifies forinclusion in the small group of institutions that haveshaped American higher education. Michigan haslong defined the model of the large, comprehensive,public research university, with a serious commitment to scholarship and service. It has been distinguished by unusual breadth, a rich diversity of academic disciplines and professional schools, social and cultural activities, and intellectual pluralism. This unrelenting commitment to academic excellence, broad student access, and public service continues today. In virtually all national and international surveys, the university's programs rank among the very best, with most of its schools, colleges, and departments ranking in quality among the top ten nationally and with several regarded as the leading programs in the nation.
Why are so many students intellectually disengaged? Mark Carnes says it is because students are so deeply absorbed in competitive social play. He shows how month-long role-immersion games in the curriculum can channel those competitive impulses into transformative learning experiences, and how bricks-and-mortar colleges can set young minds on fire.