Caitlin Zaloom and Anthony Abraham Jack
How Families Make College Work at Any Cost
The Privileged Poor:
How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students
This event includes a book signing
September 23, 2019
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes authors and professors CAITLIN ZALOOM and ANTHONY ABRAHAM JACK for a discussion of their latest books, Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost and The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students.
The struggle to pay for college is one of the defining features of middle-class life in America today. At kitchen tables all across the country, parents agonize over whether to burden their children with loans or to sacrifice their own financial security by taking out a second mortgage or draining their retirement savings. Indebted takes readers into the homes of middle-class families throughout the nation to reveal the hidden consequences of student debt and the ways that financing college has transformed family life.
Caitlin Zaloom gained the confidence of numerous parents and their college-age children, who talked candidly with her about stressful and intensely personal financial matters that are usually kept private. In this remarkable book, Zaloom describes the profound moral conflicts for parents as they try to honor what they see as their highest parental duty―providing their children with opportunity―and shows how parents and students alike are forced to take on enormous debts and gamble on an investment that might not pay off. What emerges is a troubling portrait of an American middle class fettered by the "student finance complex"―the bewildering labyrinth of government-sponsored institutions, profit-seeking firms, and university offices that collect information on household earnings and assets, assess family needs, and decide who is eligible for aid and who is not.
Superbly written and unflinchingly honest, Indebted breaks through the culture of silence surrounding the student debt crisis, revealing the unspoken costs of sending our kids to college.
About The Privileged Poor
The Ivy League looks different than it used to. College presidents and deans of admission have opened their doors―and their coffers―to support a more diverse student body. But is it enough just to admit these students? In The Privileged Poor, Anthony Jack reveals that the struggles of less privileged students continue long after they’ve arrived on campus. Admission, they quickly learn, is not the same as acceptance. This bracing and necessary book documents how university policies and cultures can exacerbate preexisting inequalities and reveals why these policies hit some students harder than others.
Despite their lofty aspirations, top colleges hedge their bets by recruiting their new diversity largely from the same old sources, admitting scores of lower-income black, Latino, and white undergraduates from elite private high schools like Exeter and Andover. These students approach campus life very differently from students who attended local, and typically troubled, public high schools and are often left to flounder on their own. Drawing on interviews with dozens of undergraduates at one of America’s most famous colleges and on his own experiences as one of the privileged poor, Jack describes the lives poor students bring with them and shows how powerfully background affects their chances of success.
If we truly want our top colleges to be engines of opportunity, university policies and campus cultures will have to change. Jack provides concrete advice to help schools reduce these hidden disadvantages―advice we cannot afford to ignore.
Praise for Indebted
"Zaloom’s comprehensive exposé of the college-financing industry argues that middle-class Americans are in an unresolvable bind: culturally mandated to ensure 'open futures' for their children, but unable to afford to do so without help, they become ensnared in risky, speculative debt. . . . The facts described here will be familiar to anyone who’s heard of the student-debt crisis; the analysis, with its emphasis on the moral dilemma facing middle-class families, will resonate with parents confronting it." —Publishers Weekly
"College affordability is one of the most urgent problems affecting opportunity in this country, and the consequences of excessive student debt are both deep and widespread. Indebted, which is based on groundbreaking research on the financial lives of middle-class families, provides an intimate view of how the struggle to pay for college has transformed the American experience. It's required reading for everyone concerned about the costs of higher education―students, parents, and policymakers alike." ―Arne Duncan, managing partner at Emerson Collective, former US Secretary of Education, and author of How Schools Work
"Combining sharp analytical insight with vivid interviews, Indebted transforms our understanding of college finances. Behind the cold statistics on mounting student debt, Zaloom discovers middle-class families' deeply moral ledgers, revealing how notions of good parenting pivot on providing children with a college education regardless of expense. A must-read for specialists and general readers alike." ―Viviana A. Zelizer, Princeton University, author of Economic Lives: How Culture Shapes the Economy
Praise for The Privileged Poor
“[An] eye-opening exposure of what it’s like to be poor on elite college campuses. . . Jack’s book brings home the pain and reality of on-campus poverty and puts the blame squarely on elite institutions for fostering policies that often ‘emphasize class differences, amplifying students’ feelings of difference and undercutting their sense of belonging.’" ―Washington Post
“For years, elite colleges have claimed to be the saviors of low-income students. With careful research Anthony Jack pulls back the curtain and reveals the real college experiences of these students on an Ivy-covered campus. Best of all, he demands that we do something about it.” ―Sara Goldrick-Rab, Founding Director of the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice
“The Privileged Poor is three books in one: an engrossing personal memoir, a collection of rigorous scholarship, and a powerful manifesto for a new movement to improve the lives of low-income students at elite universities. It’s an essential work, humane and candid, that challenges and expands our understanding of the lives of contemporary college students.” ―Paul Tough, author of Helping Children Succeed: What Works and Why
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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