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Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequalityby Elizabeth A. Armstrong
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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.
2014 NCSA Scholarly Achievement Award, North Central Sociological Association
2014 Division J Outstanding Publication Award, Division J of the American Education Research Association
About the Author
Elizabeth A. Armstrong is Associate Professor of Sociology and Organizational Studies at University of Michigan.Laura T. Hamilton is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Merced.
University of California, Merced
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