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Despite the celebrated history of not-for-profit institutions of higher education, today more than 2 million students are enrolled in for-profit colleges such as ITT Technical Institute, the University of Phoenix, and others. Yet little is known about why for-profits have expanded so quickly and even less about how the power and influence of this big-money industry impact Despite the celebrated history of not-for-profit institutions of higher education, today more than 2 million students are enrolled in for-profit colleges such as ITT Technical Institute, the University of Phoenix, and others. Yet little is known about why for-profits have expanded so quickly and even less about how the power and influence of this big-money industry impact individual lives. Lower Ed, the first book to link the rapid expansion of for-profit degrees to America’s increasing inequality, reveals the story of an industry that exploits the pain, desperation, and aspirations of the most vulnerable and exposes the conditions that allow for-profit education to thrive. Tressie McMillan Cottom draws on her personal experience as a former counselor at two for-profit colleges and dozens of interviews with students, senior executives, and activists to detail how these schools have become so successful and to decipher the benefits, credentials, pitfalls, and real costs of a for-profit education. By humanizing the hard choices about school and survival that millions of Americans face, Lower Ed nimbly parses the larger forces that deliver some of us to Yale and others to For-Profit U in an office park off Interstate 10.


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Despite the celebrated history of not-for-profit institutions of higher education, today more than 2 million students are enrolled in for-profit colleges such as ITT Technical Institute, the University of Phoenix, and others. Yet little is known about why for-profits have expanded so quickly and even less about how the power and influence of this big-money industry impact Despite the celebrated history of not-for-profit institutions of higher education, today more than 2 million students are enrolled in for-profit colleges such as ITT Technical Institute, the University of Phoenix, and others. Yet little is known about why for-profits have expanded so quickly and even less about how the power and influence of this big-money industry impact individual lives. Lower Ed, the first book to link the rapid expansion of for-profit degrees to America’s increasing inequality, reveals the story of an industry that exploits the pain, desperation, and aspirations of the most vulnerable and exposes the conditions that allow for-profit education to thrive. Tressie McMillan Cottom draws on her personal experience as a former counselor at two for-profit colleges and dozens of interviews with students, senior executives, and activists to detail how these schools have become so successful and to decipher the benefits, credentials, pitfalls, and real costs of a for-profit education. By humanizing the hard choices about school and survival that millions of Americans face, Lower Ed nimbly parses the larger forces that deliver some of us to Yale and others to For-Profit U in an office park off Interstate 10.

30 review for Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roxane

    In Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy, Tressie McMillan Cottom is at her very best--rigorous, incisive, empathetic, and witty. Lower Ed is a definitive accounting of the for-profit college phenomenon, who benefits from such schools and who is preyed upon. McMillan Cottom shares some sobering realities about for-profit education but her sharp intelligence, throughout, makes this book compelling, unforgettable, and deeply necessary.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A fascinating and sobering examination of the for-profit college phenomenon in the United States. As someone who has a good amount of economic privilege, I always tuned out commercials and advertisements for for-profit colleges. I did not think in any deep way about what their presence meant about our society. Tressie McMillan Cottom does a fabulous job of breaking down the socioeconomic implications of these institutions, showing that they capitalize on the inequalities created by our capitalis A fascinating and sobering examination of the for-profit college phenomenon in the United States. As someone who has a good amount of economic privilege, I always tuned out commercials and advertisements for for-profit colleges. I did not think in any deep way about what their presence meant about our society. Tressie McMillan Cottom does a fabulous job of breaking down the socioeconomic implications of these institutions, showing that they capitalize on the inequalities created by our capitalist society. With great empathy and intelligence, she shows how for-profit colleges target poor people, women, people of color, and other groups who do not have the resources that more privileged people possess. A few lines from the book itself, as Cottom describes for-profit colleges way better than I can: "In my account, for-profit colleges are something more complicated than big, evil con artists. They are an indicator of social and economic inequalities and, at the same time, are perpetuators of those inequalities. Meeting these two criteria is why for-profit colleges are Lower Ed. The growth and stability of Lower Ed is an indication that the private sector has shifted the cost of job training to workers, and the public sector has not provided a social policy response. For-profit colleges perpetuate long-standing inequalities in gendered work, care work, racial wealth inequalities, and statistical discrimination because they grant credentials that are riskier than most traditional degrees. However, the risk is not entirely their fault. Whether or not its reasons are good or justifiable, traditional higher education has erected barriers between its institutions and for-profit colleges: transfer policies, negative bias in admissions, and hiring practices. While those barriers may serve to protect the students earning traditional college credentials, they trap those with for-profit college credits or credentials in an educational ghetto." Overall, recommended to those who want a book that addresses an under-discussed topic related to privilege and economic inequality in the United States. This book has made me think more about my own complicity in these systems and what I can do to disrupt these cycles of poverty, greed, and disempowerment. I feel grateful to Tressie McMillan Cottom for writing it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

    This was amazing, I just took a peek and could not stop reading, I was basically nailed to the book. It's based on the author's own ethnographic and sociological research; also ownvoices in multiple aspects. I can already see it on my 2017 best nonfiction reads list (eek I still need to post the 2016 one!). I knew little about American for-profit colleges and I learned an immense amount from this book. Fair, nuanced, empathetic, avoids easy oversimplifications. I'll need to recommend it to alllll This was amazing, I just took a peek and could not stop reading, I was basically nailed to the book. It's based on the author's own ethnographic and sociological research; also ownvoices in multiple aspects. I can already see it on my 2017 best nonfiction reads list (eek I still need to post the 2016 one!). I knew little about American for-profit colleges and I learned an immense amount from this book. Fair, nuanced, empathetic, avoids easy oversimplifications. I'll need to recommend it to alllll my colleagues, too. More later IY"H and I also want to make a bookstagram pic, because. Source of the book: Lawrence Public Library (thank you!!!)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rt

    Cottom’s excellent new book is about for-profit colleges and credentialing, but it’s really about the collapse of the safety net and the dumping of risk on individuals. It’s also about really effective marketing techniques. For-profit colleges became more attractive as the labor market became more uncertain and unfriendly—they even identified declining unemployment as a bigger threat to them than competition among them. “Poor labor market outcomes for their graduates (and non-graduates) is part o Cottom’s excellent new book is about for-profit colleges and credentialing, but it’s really about the collapse of the safety net and the dumping of risk on individuals. It’s also about really effective marketing techniques. For-profit colleges became more attractive as the labor market became more uncertain and unfriendly—they even identified declining unemployment as a bigger threat to them than competition among them. “Poor labor market outcomes for their graduates (and non-graduates) is part of their business plan” (which also makes regulatory penalties for poor job placement statistucs just a cost of doing business). “If we have a shitty credentialing system, in the case of for-profit colleges, then it is likely because we have a shitty labor market.” While traditional higher education assumed that employers would recognize the value of a college degree, and thus saw employers as partners in providing relevant job training, for-profit colleges respond to employers’ unwillingness to invest in workers at all by offering to do that—for a price. Thus, for-profit colleges depend on “acute, sustained socioeconomic inequalities,” in everything from enrollment to financing to scheduling classes to deal with constraints on students’ time. Students think, reasonably, that credentials are important to employers, and thus take on debts that (a) seem worthwhile as investments, especially as recruiters for the schools emphasize this, and (b) seem better than the alternatives, given the insecurity so many workers—especially minority women—face. And yet, one study found that students with for-profit college credentials are only as likely to get a callback as students with high school diplomas. (Cottom says later, though, that for some employment screenings, such as automated ones, merely being able to check the box for a college degree may be of assistance.) Another way of looking at it: students at for-profit colleges “earn about as much as graduates of similar demographic backgrounds from traditional colleges, but have more bouts of unemployment and for longer periods of time.” They’re also less likely to graduate at all, and when they do, they have more debt than they would have from a public school; for-profit graduates are almost half of all student loan defaults. Poor people, women, minorities, and single parents are disproportionately likely to enroll in for-profit colleges, in part because they make it much easier to do so than even the (far cheaper, probably better credential-wise) community colleges. Some stats: 2 million students in 2010, up from under 400,000 in 2000. One in 20 students in higher education is at a for-profit, but that’s 1 in 10 African-Americans, 1 in 14 Latinx, and 1 in 14 first-generation college students. Much of the recent growth, however, is in offering graduate degrees. On average, for-profit BA programs cost 19% more than public universities,while associate degrees and certificates cost four times more than community colleges. Over 94% of for-profit college students use federal financial aid, where their school participates (there are many small ones that don’t). Average debt for graduating seniors with loans was $29,400 in 2012, but in for-profits it was $39,950. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s all relative; most people won’t get jobs that can easily pay off those loans. Twenty-five percent of for-profit college students have a GED or other non-traditional high school certification; 16% are participating in a welfare program, while 2.6% of those in traditional colleges are. Cottom contests the narrative that these schools are credentialing people in fields where there are labor market shortages; in health care, for example, they aren’t producing registered nurses or doctors but rather massage therapists. The model the for-profit colleges work off of is that people will need to go back to school repeatedly to combat job instability and employer demands for new skills. Also, students choose for-profit colleges because they don’t want to move away from their family obligations and want to move up where they are; Cottom points out that this hope for the use of a credential conflicts with the assumptions behind the “knowledge economy” proponents who search for the ever more flexible, able-to-move-across-the-country worker. Here’s quite a statistic: 65 percent of students at for-profit colleges didn’t know their schools were for-profit. They generally thought of “college” as a unified entity, and were encouraged to do so by the colleges themselves, which unlike traditional colleges (pitching a unique on campus experience) touted the value of education generally. I learned about the role of the student loan refund check in funding daily life for many students, especially in for-profit schools that encourage maximum borrowing. I hadn’t thought about what Cottom calls (quoting other researchers) “education deserts”—cf. “food deserts”—postindustrial areas where for-profit colleges seem most accessible. A traditional college 40 miles away is useless if you don’t have a car that can regularly make that trip and the gas money to fuel it. I was also struck by the similarity between Cottom’s informants and the angry white folks in Strangers in Their Own Land: both believed in “following the rules,” but Cottom’s informants expected a lot less from and of following the rules, which required them to hustle just to get where others were by birth and social capital. In that context, the risk of default was not to different from the risk of catastrophe to which they were already exposed by poverty; they didn’t have homes or cars to repossess anyway. (Over 94% of black college students have student loans, compared to 69% of white students, and it turns out that the probability of default isn’t correlated to the size of the loan, but is correlated with whether people actually complete school.) Moreover, Cottom found that—at least for those seeking advanced degrees—the existence of debt was proof of the validity of the investment and proof that the school was “real.” Marketing at these schools is designed to overcome the obstacles that their target students see, making students’ choices feel rational. At a technical college catering mostly to white men who already had jobs, Cottom says, they sold “insurance—policies against unemployment, career stagnation, and and volatile job markets.” At a beauty school, they focused on barriers like poverty and childcare, repeatedly returning to prospects who often had trouble showing up at scheduled appointments and filling out paperwork. The meaning of being poor and black and a mother made the beauty school “a rational choice in the way that dousing your burning leg with cold water is rational: it helps but you are still scarred.” Having a car and being able to reach the school were two of the biggest obstacles for prospective students at the beauty school. Other problems were trouble with families that prevented easy filling out of the FAFSA; some families were in disarray and couldn’t find the relevant documents (e.g., birth certificate) while some resisted sharing tax forms with children or worried about immigration status. Marketing to these students required being very involved, including going to state offices to get birth certificates with them where necessary. They followed up with potential students many, many times, in part to help train them to show up when scheduled. A man who worked at another school told about bringing in a psychoanalyst to consider their students, who found that they were “stuck in a moment of trauma from their lives,” and that students were looking for and would respond well to a “good-enough mother,” a caring authority figure who could help them move past their trauma. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the enrollment personnel Cottom encountered were women. When Cottom contacted schools as a prospect, they focused on whether she had the support structures in place to overcome obstacles, such as her work schedule. “There was often visible relief when I mentioned having no romantic partners.” (Cottom herself talks about her experience working at the beauty college with women stranded at the end of the day when their boyfriends failed to show up to drive them home, even though the women owned the cars.) Lots of classic sales techniques: “I was particualrly struck by how the [enrollment officer] used questioning techniques that made it difficult to answer any way but affirmatively. … On eleven separate occasions at nine schools, the EO said of a job board, ‘You mentioned that you’re looking for a more professional job. Do you think this career board might help you keep an eye out for a better job?’” The schools touted Bureau of Labor Statistics income projections for relevant fields (with asterisks in small print about making no promises), and “made a big deal—through design and the enrollment counselors presentation—about the data being from the federal government and not something made up at the school,” while the school’s job placement data were always subordinate—“generally in a footnote or small table,” implying that national numbers were more important. The schools accepted the necessity of complying with federal regulations about disclosing job placement, but that didn’t mean they had to embrace its spirit. Enrollment officers made it much easier to enroll than community colleges’ admissions offices did; Cottom contrasts their helpfulness to mystifying community college websites that required social capital to navigate. At for-profit colleges, they never assumed that Cottom had the skills to navigate complex bureaucracy. Nor did they assume that likely students were already committed to the value of college. Rather than touting their school specifically, they talked up the monetary/job-seeking value of a degree. Cottom suggests that the EOs take more or less the place of the “helicopter parents” of the anxious middle class, shepherding their progeny through the steps necessary to survive in a country that has largely abandoned collective responsibility. The simplicity here works for people who are especially vulnerable and lacking in that kind of social capital. But then, they don’t deliver the same results as traditional colleges. For-profit colleges perpetuate inequality by offering riskier credentials than traditional colleges, regardless of whether there’s any intent to discriminate. “[W]hen for-profit colleges design a speedy enrollment process because women have so little flexible time, or assume that I need a job to support my kids, they are profiting from inequality.” Cottom spends some time on the issue of credit transfer—community colleges resist accepting for-profit credits, and there’s real concern for quality behind that, but it also makes it harder for students to swallow the sunk costs if they realize that they’d do better with a traditional degree. More students lost credits in moving from public or private not-for-profits to for-profits than any other situation (69 and 83% of transfers lost credit, respectively, compared to 38% making a public-to-public transfer). Cottom also points out that the prestige issues and the unwillingness of traditional community colleges to equate themselves with for-profits are additional barriers, over and above the serious concerns about course quality, which aren’t assuaged by for-profits’ treatment of classroom conditions as trade secrets. But making it hard to transfer increases the emotional costs, not just the (significant) financial costs, of choosing what might well be a better college once the student figures that out. Ultimately, Cottom concludes, for-profit colleges are part of a negative social insurance program—rather than protecting individuals from the risks of modern life and predatory labor markets, negative social insurance allows specific private entities to profit from others’ insecurity. Solutions, she suggests, have to come from good work: a $15/hour minimum wage, for a start. Recently on her blog, https://tressiemc.com/essays-2/lower-... she tied these issues to even more current events: “Shareholder for-profit colleges anticipate a more favorable regulatory climate, thus their rebounding stocks. But, they also anticipate more favorable social policies from this administration that will continue to make workers feel vulnerable in the new economy. Gutting the American Care Act for health savings accounts is just one example. Those kinds of risk shift degrade job quality and make workers willing to pursue all kinds of credentialing to increase their odds of securing higher quality work.”

  5. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Tressie explains the post secondary education system, identifying the inequalities and the Financialized 'For Profit' colleges. Sadly our education system has been turned into a money making machine and we have become financially trapped in the qualifications game, employment and success built upon degrees and certificates. Tressie identifies the increasing inequalities between socio-economic groups, worsened by the transition from publicly funded education to carefully marketed for profit institu Tressie explains the post secondary education system, identifying the inequalities and the Financialized 'For Profit' colleges. Sadly our education system has been turned into a money making machine and we have become financially trapped in the qualifications game, employment and success built upon degrees and certificates. Tressie identifies the increasing inequalities between socio-economic groups, worsened by the transition from publicly funded education to carefully marketed for profit institutions. This book is an important read for adults of all ages.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    It didn't take me many pages to assume this is Cottom's doctoral dissertation research revised into a book. After a little research, it was easily confirmed. Not necessarily a bad thing, but be warned - it reads like a dissertation. Cottom worked for 2 different for-profit college companies, one focused on trade/beauty school and the other offering AA, bachelor's, and master's degrees leaving each when she became disturbed by some of their "recruiting" practices. She details some of these issues It didn't take me many pages to assume this is Cottom's doctoral dissertation research revised into a book. After a little research, it was easily confirmed. Not necessarily a bad thing, but be warned - it reads like a dissertation. Cottom worked for 2 different for-profit college companies, one focused on trade/beauty school and the other offering AA, bachelor's, and master's degrees leaving each when she became disturbed by some of their "recruiting" practices. She details some of these issues early in the book, but these issues are not its focus. Instead she spends much of her time examining "risk shift" - the work culture shift in which historically companies trained their own employees but are increasingly expecting their workers to come to them fully, specifically trained. This shift in training/education requirements finds many workers who never intended to go to college or didn't consider themselves college material to seek alternative college paths. Thus, this has caused a rise in for-profit colleges - colleges that aren't exactly colleges but claim to train a worker better but for significantly higher amounts of money. Overall, the research is fascinating and opens up several research questions for future study -especially now that many for-profit colleges have lost access to federal funding. Her theories on risk shift and the impact of economic changes are interesting. However, I never really thought she fully made the points - especially concerning inequality - that she wanted to make. Also, for a book from a social science dissertation, I found the lack of data - both qualitative and/or quantitative - annoying.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Just as good as everyone says it is. What really stood out to me was how Tressie frames the discussion of for-profits not as an educational conversation (where it tends to reside), but as a broader result of the way work and employment are changing. As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about these issues, that really pushes me to think about whether the solutions we have really are sufficient. For a long time I'd thought that part of the fix here was about dealing with our credentialing Just as good as everyone says it is. What really stood out to me was how Tressie frames the discussion of for-profits not as an educational conversation (where it tends to reside), but as a broader result of the way work and employment are changing. As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about these issues, that really pushes me to think about whether the solutions we have really are sufficient. For a long time I'd thought that part of the fix here was about dealing with our credentialing problems--basically stopping the proliferation of low-return programs. But it's clear from "Lower Ed" that is not enough. Until we tackle the underlying labor market conditions creating these problems in the first place we aren't going to get very far.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Celine

    "As it turns out, there is such a thing as "bad" education. It is an educational option that, by design, cannot increase students' odds of beating the circumstances of their birth." I can't say that anything in Tressie McMillan Cottom's book wholly caught me by surprise. Knowing what we know about the way for-profit organizations operate generally, it makes sense that a for-profit college run by shareholders would seek to increase its returns over all else (including the quality of its programs a "As it turns out, there is such a thing as "bad" education. It is an educational option that, by design, cannot increase students' odds of beating the circumstances of their birth." I can't say that anything in Tressie McMillan Cottom's book wholly caught me by surprise. Knowing what we know about the way for-profit organizations operate generally, it makes sense that a for-profit college run by shareholders would seek to increase its returns over all else (including the quality of its programs and betterment of its students). Still, seeing the research tied together so convincingly was definitely disconcerting. It's difficult to conclude that the way these institutions market and operate is anything other than predatory. The book is very academic so keep that in mind going into it. Having conducted qualitative research for my own thesis, I really appreciated how Cottom took time to explain her own insights on conducting her interviews, gathering observational data, and thinking through her analysis as she planned her dissertation. I also really appreciated how she tied her findings into her own experiences as a black woman and the BLM movement in her epilogue. Great read for anyone interested in higher education reform/education policy in general.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    A series of cherry picked anecdotes that lead to fantastic generalities to feed the confirmation bias of paying customers/readers. If I go into a more profound analysis, this is a sick argument for state owned everything. But I can't stop from laughing at the irony of having an optional life stage support a mandatory and low quality prison school system. Happily, the author does not have the brain power to go that far. A series of cherry picked anecdotes that lead to fantastic generalities to feed the confirmation bias of paying customers/readers. If I go into a more profound analysis, this is a sick argument for state owned everything. But I can't stop from laughing at the irony of having an optional life stage support a mandatory and low quality prison school system. Happily, the author does not have the brain power to go that far.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Incomplete! The book is about education, so I awarded a grade, and that grade is “I” — Incomplete. Lower Ed is subtitled The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy. Written by Tressie McMillan Cottom, and published by The New Press in 2017, the book is an analysis of the rise of for-profit higher-education businesses in America, of their effect on the US Economy and, more important, of the effect on the individual students who become deeply in debt because of them. T Incomplete! The book is about education, so I awarded a grade, and that grade is “I” — Incomplete. Lower Ed is subtitled The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy. Written by Tressie McMillan Cottom, and published by The New Press in 2017, the book is an analysis of the rise of for-profit higher-education businesses in America, of their effect on the US Economy and, more important, of the effect on the individual students who become deeply in debt because of them. The author does not mince words, and what she says is basically accurate. I know, because I worked for two of those self-same for-profit universities, and I became just as disenchanted as Dr. Cottom. Unfortunately for the book, it is chockablock with facts and figures that make for very dry reading, but it only tells half of the story. Even when the author begins a chapter with an interesting anecdote, it rapidly devolves into a scholarly narrative on Sociology that many readers will probably find boring. What is glaringly missing from this monograph is an analysis of the value of the education received at a for-profit college or university, and why it does or does not have the same value as an education from a traditional college or university. Throughout the book is an implied assumption that taxpayers and students are being ripped off by for-profit schools. This might be absolutely true, but the author offers no evidence that it really is so. At one point, for example, she compares for-profit universities with Harvard University: probably the most prestigious university in the country. Everybody knows that a degree from Harvard is a guarantee of job security, but why is that? It is because we all know that a graduate from Harvard University will possess the knowledge and skills that the degree represents. Implied in the book, however, is the notion that graduates from for-profit universities really do not possess the same amount of knowledge or skills as a Harvard graduate — or the graduates from any other traditional colleges or universities either, for that matter. This might be entirely true, but the author owes it to her readers to make a case for it being factual. She doesn’t do it. The title of the book, Lower Ed is the term the author uses to describe the set of all for-profit schools, including the certificate-awarding schools as well as the degree-granting colleges and universities. Also, the author uses the term “credentials” to refer to the various certificates, diplomas and degrees granted by the conferring businesses, which she calls “credentialing schemes.” As a former professor in two of the largest for-profit universities in America, I had seven years to observe and analyze the quality of the educations offered by these kinds of schools. I left the for-profit teaching positions because I became so deeply disillusioned by the practices in the instructional operations of those businesses — the actual classroom teaching. I’m not the only one. I know numerous former faculty members who became disenchanted with the educational models at some of these schools. I also know current professors who are unhappy, but stay on in the hope that they might be able to help, even a little bit, to educate their students. Dr. Cottom could easily have reached out to current and former faculty members of these schools to gain a perspective as to just exactly why these schools do not live up to their promises. She apparently made no attempt to do so. That’s why the book is incomplete. She analyzes only the front-end (marketing and sales) of the for-profit education business, while totally ignoring the back-end (the education product, itself). The contract between a school and a student involves more than just the consideration (tuition). It also involves a value received, or a product (the education). Consideration is paid, and a value is received. The author has not convinced us that the value received (the education) is worth less than the consideration paid (the tuition and fees). I feel that she had an obligation to do so. The author began her own association with these for-profit colleges and universities as an “enrollment counselor” (sales rep) at a school of cosmetology in North Carolina. She later moved on to play the same role for a Technical College (vocational school) in the Charlotte area. Eventually, Dr. Cottom acquired her PhD in Sociology from Emory University and was granted a professorship at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has conducted extensive research into the topics of higher-education and for-profit universities in America, and she has written about much of it. She has been a Faculty Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University since 2015. She has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Slate Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, and a number of academic publications. With such credentials, it is clear that she should “know her stuff,” so to speak. Immediately in the book’s Introduction, Ms. Cottom relates some startling statistics: “. . . some financialized for-profit colleges reportedly spent 22.4 percent of all revenue on marketing, advertising, recruiting, and admissions staffing compared with 17.7 percent of all revenue” on teaching and instruction (p. #20). To me, this statistic speaks to the morality of these kinds of schools. Then, in the first chapter of the book, the author relates the results of studies that showed how well the degrees obtained at for-profit schools pay for themselves (or not). On page #28, she tells us that studies have shown that student graduates with credentials from a for-profit college or university on their resumes are about as likely to get a call-back from a potential employer “as someone with only a high school diploma.” She goes on to add that “Another study found that applicants with a for-profit college credential get as many callbacks [from prospective employers] as applicants with a fake college listed. This means that employers may have a preference for traditional degrees, but they lack the mechanisms to discern which schools confer them beyond the big state and brand-name schools.” Umm, has anybody ever heard of the Internet? Any minimally-competent HR department should be able to check out the qualifications of any school in minutes by performing simple searches on the Internet. But the author never tells us why this simple and easy research is apparently not performed by employers. The truth of the matter has to do with the fact that many (if not all) for-profit schools, colleges, and universities diminish the value of their credentials to their hard-working and dedicated students — students who might, in fact, have learned a lot — by awarding the same credentials to those students who have learned little or nothing in the same programs, and who really do not deserve the credentials. I saw this myself at the universities where I taught. Indicative of the pressure to keep under-performing students enrolled and providing a revenue stream to the Lower Ed enterprise is the perhaps-startling statistic related by the author on page #34: ‘. . . the majority of full-time undergraduate students enrolled in a for-profit college will not have graduated after six years . . .” Of great interest is the observation by the author that for-profit universities tailor their curricula to the likes and wants of the students, rather than to their needs. On pages #35 and #36, she relates an example in the field of healthcare training. She tells us how “the second most popular ‘healthcare’ certificate program in for-profit colleges is massage therapy.” She goes on to point out, however, that “[t]he most critical needs areas in healthcare are registered nurses and physicians, especially in elder care due to the aging baby boomer population. Students may like massage therapy. And because for-profits make money when they offer programs that students like, it makes sense to offer more massage therapy programs than our labor markets can absorb.” In this example, the supply does not match the demand, and graduating students might find themselves unemployable. That makes sense to me. During my tenure at one of the for-profit universities where I taught at both the bachelor’s and master’s levels, I was told by my Campus College Chair (a fairly big campus, by the way) that the most important attribute for a professor at our institution was for our students to like us. Not that they respectus. Not that they learnfrom us. But that they likeus. Many of my colleagues on the faculty followed that advice and transformed from teachers into entertainers in the classroom. Game playing disguised as learning became popular with many professors. The students really liked them, but they didn’t learn much. The faculty who entertained their students benefited, however. They received choice class assignments and other plums awarded by the school. I was startled to learn, as described by the author on page #67 of the book, that: “As it turns out, there is such a thing as ‘bad’ education. It is an educational option that, by design, cannot increase students’ odds of beating the circumstances of their birth.” She goes on to add that “For profit-colleges do not have employment or wage returns that justify their cost to either students or our public system of financial aid.” Why? She doesn’t tell us why. Another aspect of this topic that could have been covered in greater detail was one that was often discussed at faculty meetings and around the water cooler on the campuses where I taught: the inverse correlation between enrollment levels and the state of the US Economy — when unemployment was high, so were enrollment levels. Right now, unemployment is low and the economy is good. It won’t last, and the for-profit schools know it. They can bide their time until the next recession that will be caused by incompetent politicians and their enrollment levels will, once again, surge. I was very disappointed at the author’s lack of attention to the fact that, even if a student manages to graduate from one of the for-profit institutions, and even if he or she has the credentials necessary to obtain an interview, or even a job offer, do they have the necessary skill set to enable them to succeed in their new jobs? In other words, can they make it past the 90-day or six-month probationary period that most employers have made a policy in the 21st century? Have the students learned enough about the subject of their courses of study to be able to convince a new boss that they are really qualified to hold the positions they now hold? Can they survive in their new jobs? I can recall many a classroom in which I attempted to emphasize to my students the importance of possessing the knowledge that is supposed to accompany the credentials they have been awarded in order to be able to truly succeed in their new careers. My words fell, mostly, on deaf ears. They had been promised something different. After all, they would soon be in possession of a shiny new bachelor’s or master’s degree. What else could they possibly need? On the plus side, I found it interesting to read the author’s analysis of the difference between cost and price in the context of for-profit higher education. She asserts that price is absolute while cost is relative, and she makes a good case to support that assertion. But I wondered, as I read this book, whether the author would even have written it, or if anybody would really care about the topic, if the quality of education offered by the for-profit schools could match that of traditional colleges and universities. The first mention of the quality of the education provided by Lower Ed was not until page #151 (of 187 pages). It was too little, and too late, in my estimation. Also, there is an implied assumption throughout the book that students who successfully complete the requirements for a credential issued by a for-profit institution of higher education will find employment and become gainfully employed for the remainder of their careers. I don’t believe that should be a given. My own experience has been that many students who obtain bachelor’s degrees in subjects such as Information Technology, Healthcare, or Business Administration and Management often wind up with jobs that were not in the fields in which the students had received their degrees. I think that this false assumption should have been treated by the author with a little more attention and detail. Although the author assiduously provided source citations for many of the assertions made in this book, she departed from that practice on page #183, when she suddenly, surprisingly and overtly injects race into the entire matter — and she does so in a manner that blares loudly off the pages of the book. Up until that point, Dr. Cottom had made an elegant and persuasive case that it was “inequality” that led to the rise of the for-profit schools: wealth inequality, gender inequality, and social inequality. Now it was racism — and not just any old racism, either. Specifically, it was racism as practiced by whites against blacks. Her assertion that the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the self-defense killing of Trayvon Martin was a “radical injustice” is not cited as to source, and it shows an astonishing amount of ignorance by an academic. A jury heard many days of sworn testimony, given under oath and with penalty of perjury, in that trial. The acquittal verdict was a forgone conclusion to anybody who actually watched the trial, which was televised in its entirety. Why did the author feel that it was necessary to inject the contentious issue of race, along with the issues surrounding Black Lives Matter (BLM), into a supposedly-factual book about the rise of for-profit education in America? Even more outrageous than that, on the very next page, she introduces the subject of “reparations” in the context of the BLM “central platform.” Then, she contradicts herself on the same page by telling us that “. . . this is a systemic problem, produced by wealth inequalities, justified by contemporary income inequalities and perpetuated by corporate-political interests.” I see no mention of race in this assertion. Which is it? Is it wealth, income, and other types of inequalities, or is it race? She can’t seem to make up her mind. She destroyed her own credibility with this excursion. She has discredited her own book. I am disappointed, and I was forced to lower my opinion of the book. My own experience in two of the largest for-profit, post-high-school education companies in the US demonstrated no overt racial component in the makeup of my classes. I taught no classes with a majority African-American student enrollment. In every case, there were fewer than 50% of the members of the class who were black. I couldn’t award this book an incomplete on this forum because I am limited to some number of stars between one and five, instead of an actual grade. That meant I couldn’t award a grade of “D.” So, I decided that an incomplete was probably equivalent to three of five possible stars — but the overt injection of race into the discourse cost an additional star, so I award the book two stars. It is well-researched, but incompletely so. Near the end, it contains an element of racial politics that was jarringly incongruous. It is longer than necessary for the value of the information within. It appears to have been somewhat padded. On page #126, for example, details like office hours added nothing to the substance of the book. It is minutiae. Who cares? Tell us what we want to hear. Why is it that you believe the for-profit schools deserve the tag “Lower Ed”? Readers want to know . . .

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Alexander

    We read this book for our online book club in spring-summer 2017. Detailed notes and discussion for each chapter are on my blog: the reading plan introduction chapter 1 chapter 2 chapter 3 chapter 4 chapter 5 chapter 6 epilogue. We read this book for our online book club in spring-summer 2017. Detailed notes and discussion for each chapter are on my blog: the reading plan introduction chapter 1 chapter 2 chapter 3 chapter 4 chapter 5 chapter 6 epilogue.

  12. 4 out of 5

    David Mccracken

    A clear book about a complicated subject. Sometimes dense and academic, but always with a strong voice. Frames the financialization of post-secondary eductation as similar to mortgage financialization (and other efforts to move from government supported services to a government supported predatory model). Does a great job of showing how the wide spectrum of for-profit students, from those getting relatively quick credentials to those getting PhDs, are similar in their need for credentials, the r A clear book about a complicated subject. Sometimes dense and academic, but always with a strong voice. Frames the financialization of post-secondary eductation as similar to mortgage financialization (and other efforts to move from government supported services to a government supported predatory model). Does a great job of showing how the wide spectrum of for-profit students, from those getting relatively quick credentials to those getting PhDs, are similar in their need for credentials, the roadblocks they face in the traditional educational marketplace, and their vulnerability to the for-profit sales pitch.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    This book was a little too academic for my tastes. The author spent a lot of time repeating what she had covered earlier in the book. I was more interested in hearing about the ppl she talked to, than about credential theory or whatever. There's nothing really new here if you've seen the Frontline or 60 minutes segment on for-profit colleges. This was an okay book, but I felt it had the potential to be exceptional if it was written more like traditional ethnography. This book was a little too academic for my tastes. The author spent a lot of time repeating what she had covered earlier in the book. I was more interested in hearing about the ppl she talked to, than about credential theory or whatever. There's nothing really new here if you've seen the Frontline or 60 minutes segment on for-profit colleges. This was an okay book, but I felt it had the potential to be exceptional if it was written more like traditional ethnography.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kaia

    As I was sorting this book onto virtual GoodReads shelves, I thought to myself "I should really rename my social-justice-social-issues shelf books-about-the-world-that-make-me-angry." This book does make me angry, because Tressie McMillan Cottom does such an extraordinary job of exploring and explaining the growth of for-profit colleges--the way they deepen inequalities, take advantage of people who may not have access to traditional education or credentials, but also how their rise can also be As I was sorting this book onto virtual GoodReads shelves, I thought to myself "I should really rename my social-justice-social-issues shelf books-about-the-world-that-make-me-angry." This book does make me angry, because Tressie McMillan Cottom does such an extraordinary job of exploring and explaining the growth of for-profit colleges--the way they deepen inequalities, take advantage of people who may not have access to traditional education or credentials, but also how their rise can also be attributed to those same inequalities and to changes in our labor market/economy that shift risk and insecurities onto workers. She also demonstrates the ways "traditional" higher ed isn't better addressing these inequalities--it isn'tmeeting the needs, isn't removing barriers, and isn't always a welcoming/intuitive place for first-generation students, people of color, and/or people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. It's also a book that makes me angry because, while the researcher does point out some things we could do on the societal level, they are steps that seem incredibly distant and difficult in our particular political climate. Side story that's probably only interesting to me: I was inches away from starting a master's program in sociology specifically to look at education, and possibly college access, in 2011, but decided to try out the library profession instead. I haven't thought about this almost-grad school in quite awhile, so reading something (excellent) in this field sent me down several "I wonder what direction my life would have taken if I made the other decision" rabbit holes.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brienna

    An absolutely fascinating study of the growth of for-profit colleges in the United States. Tressie McMillian Cottom does an excellent job of educating her readers on not just the educational aspect of these institutions, but also the changes in employment and social safety nets that have led us here. I appreciate the empathy which resonates through this work, as well as how much better informed I feel having read this book. As a note, this book does read like a thesis — this format worked really An absolutely fascinating study of the growth of for-profit colleges in the United States. Tressie McMillian Cottom does an excellent job of educating her readers on not just the educational aspect of these institutions, but also the changes in employment and social safety nets that have led us here. I appreciate the empathy which resonates through this work, as well as how much better informed I feel having read this book. As a note, this book does read like a thesis — this format worked really well for me and I think it contributed to the level of understanding I took from the material, but it may not be everyone’s personal cup of tea.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer K

    Must read for anyone interested in education in our nation! A gripping and intricate story of greed, betrayal, and larceny against students, brought to life by Tressie McMillan Cottom with precision and clarity.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    All hail Tressie McMillan Cottom! She has done a tremendous amount of research to expose for-profit colleges for their predatory practices to enroll already struggling people of color into their schools. She uncovers how their marketing and recruiting schemes prey on students fears and insecurities and leave them even more in debt and poorly educated. I was aware of issues with for-profit colleges, but the personal account from Dr. McMillan Cottom (as a former recruiter) and the students she int All hail Tressie McMillan Cottom! She has done a tremendous amount of research to expose for-profit colleges for their predatory practices to enroll already struggling people of color into their schools. She uncovers how their marketing and recruiting schemes prey on students fears and insecurities and leave them even more in debt and poorly educated. I was aware of issues with for-profit colleges, but the personal account from Dr. McMillan Cottom (as a former recruiter) and the students she interviewed, helped me to understand the negative impact of this industry. The book had lots of statistics and anectdoes yet they were easy to follow. This book is a must-read for anyone involved or concerned with education. I would highly recommend it to a friend and to Betsy Devos, too.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    I got along with this much better than THICK, I'm happy to say -- this was truly a thick sociological survey of the complexities around who for-profit institutions serve, how that market arose, and the intricacies of why students are looking for the credentialing services that those institutions provide. This was really thought provoking & a different lens to consider the changing labor market of the last 20 years... especially in considering who is or isn't included in the vision of "the jobs o I got along with this much better than THICK, I'm happy to say -- this was truly a thick sociological survey of the complexities around who for-profit institutions serve, how that market arose, and the intricacies of why students are looking for the credentialing services that those institutions provide. This was really thought provoking & a different lens to consider the changing labor market of the last 20 years... especially in considering who is or isn't included in the vision of "the jobs of the 21st century"

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    I work in higher ed and have always wondered how for-profit schools survived. They're more expensive, they aren't accredited---why would anyone pick them? This book does an excellent job of answering that question. One you read the book you not only understand but you see how they are successful. This is a fascinating and quick read. I work in higher ed and have always wondered how for-profit schools survived. They're more expensive, they aren't accredited---why would anyone pick them? This book does an excellent job of answering that question. One you read the book you not only understand but you see how they are successful. This is a fascinating and quick read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Colleen Chung

    I always appreciate a good sociological take on socioeconomic issues and Lower Ed does not disappoint. Cottom sheds light on what most of us college graduates and academics don’t ever have to consider, specifically the circumstances that lead one to decide to attend a for-profit college that go beyond the personal. In an era of vast inequality, it is unsurprising that such enterprises arose to meet ever-growing job insecurity and the need to be credentialed. This “markets are the solution” menta I always appreciate a good sociological take on socioeconomic issues and Lower Ed does not disappoint. Cottom sheds light on what most of us college graduates and academics don’t ever have to consider, specifically the circumstances that lead one to decide to attend a for-profit college that go beyond the personal. In an era of vast inequality, it is unsurprising that such enterprises arose to meet ever-growing job insecurity and the need to be credentialed. This “markets are the solution” mentality, however, only ends up perpetuating more of the same inequalities it purports to save its students from. As she shows, such students incur much more debt with no guarantee of a job once they graduate, if at all. This may seem irrelevant to most of us but it is actually pretty telling of what may become of the corporatization of higher education. If we are not careful, the “education gospel” spouted by Wall Street financiers will have us all believing that pricey, short-term degree programs are what makes real education and that it is to be reserved for those who can afford it. -1 point because I’m sure we all expected a more searing condemnation of these predatory practices and the actors who lead them but I understand, ethics and all.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Megan Graham

    I loved how the author put the focus on the labor market that has caused the need for for-profit college instead of putting the blame on the colleges. Of course they deserve to be accountable for what they are doing, but also, we need to create a better society where employers take on more risk & responsibility for training workers instead of putting that responsibility on the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. This book does a fantastic job of explaining specific details of the for I loved how the author put the focus on the labor market that has caused the need for for-profit college instead of putting the blame on the colleges. Of course they deserve to be accountable for what they are doing, but also, we need to create a better society where employers take on more risk & responsibility for training workers instead of putting that responsibility on the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. This book does a fantastic job of explaining specific details of the for-profit college system while also tying the system back to how it effects everyday people. Only issue is that it is a very academic read! Would recommend for anyone interested in for-profit colleges

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tamara

    Excellent for drawing connections between predatory education and wider processes of risk shifting by employers.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    This is a short and powerful book presenting McMillan Cottom's research on for-profit colleges and universities. I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand what's different about our current economy. I want to use it with my students at a traditional, not-for-profit university, but I don't think I can assign them a whole book in a survey course. Which part should I pick? The introduction beautifully lays out the economic changes of financialization, explaining how the for-profit sector in This is a short and powerful book presenting McMillan Cottom's research on for-profit colleges and universities. I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand what's different about our current economy. I want to use it with my students at a traditional, not-for-profit university, but I don't think I can assign them a whole book in a survey course. Which part should I pick? The introduction beautifully lays out the economic changes of financialization, explaining how the for-profit sector in higher education could grow. The first chapter is a short discussion of whether for-profit colleges are "real"--I don't think that's relevant to my course, but it will be interesting for you if you're reading the book. The second chapter is about the author's own experiences working for two for-profit colleges in her area. I often include readings that explain a researcher's personal relationship to the material they study, because this is a special feature of sociological writing. In the third chapter, there are profiles of two students with radically different relationships to their student loans--both are taking tremendous risks by taking on a huge debt, but one is a speculator who wants to use the student loan money from his for-profit college MBA to start a business (!) and one is a more typical believer in what McMillan Cottom calls "the education gospel." She's the person who says, half-joking, "Jesus is my backup plan!" That is important to my students, many of whom are interested in entrepreneurship and are, like the person the author interviewed, the first in their families to go to college. The fourth chapter covers the entrepreneurialization of the individual in neoliberalism. This is an idea I wanted to share from my reading of Wendy Brown's book Undoing the Demos, but I knew that book was almost certainly too difficult. Here, McMillan Cottom illustrates it with a discussion of the ways that the hard-sell of the for-profit college saves time for people working full time, and a description of research McMillan Cottom did as a member of an online discussion group for black women seeking advanced degrees. More here also about the education gospel that she outlines in the introduction. The fifth chapter is about whether credits from for-profit colleges transfer to non-profit colleges. The sixth chapter expands on the idea that for-profit colleges are part of negative social insurance. (I think by "negative social insurance" she means social factors that force people into poverty! It's a genius phrase. I wanted to know whether McMillan Cottom coined it, so I asked her via Twitter, and she said that she thought she had.) In the Epilogue, with the summary of the rest of the book, there's a gem of a discussion about sexism, racism and intent. McMillan Cottom was able to do this research in part because as a young adult black woman, the people she interviewed just assumed she was a potential student for their for-profit colleges. Her age and her self-presentation didn't interfere with this. I generally try to get all my books from the public library, but I would really like to own a copy of this. It's quite possible that I will add it to my favorites on here. These are difficult ideas and they are presented beautifully.

  24. 5 out of 5

    jasmine sun

    this was fantastic - really rigorous ethnographic research into for-profit students and admissions, all contextualized in broader economic shifts. shows how for-profit college enrollment isn't because students can't make rational decisions; rather, it's about a society that increasingly burdens individuals (rather than companies) with the responsibility of investing in constant skill "upgrades" to fit the job market's latest needs. this was fantastic - really rigorous ethnographic research into for-profit students and admissions, all contextualized in broader economic shifts. shows how for-profit college enrollment isn't because students can't make rational decisions; rather, it's about a society that increasingly burdens individuals (rather than companies) with the responsibility of investing in constant skill "upgrades" to fit the job market's latest needs.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This is a must-read for anyone interested in policy, education, and inequality. Cottom situates the rise of lower-ed (for-profit colleges) in the context of racial inequality, the risk shift from employers to employees over the neoliberal era, and the shift toward knowledge jobs. She goes inside the industry to show how and who they recruit. In fact, she worked at a for-profit college before getting her PhD. This is an important book and it's very well-written. This is a must-read for anyone interested in policy, education, and inequality. Cottom situates the rise of lower-ed (for-profit colleges) in the context of racial inequality, the risk shift from employers to employees over the neoliberal era, and the shift toward knowledge jobs. She goes inside the industry to show how and who they recruit. In fact, she worked at a for-profit college before getting her PhD. This is an important book and it's very well-written.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    "As it turns out, there is such a thing as "bad" education. It is an educational option that, by design, cannot increase students' odds of beating the circumstances of there birth." A masterpiece that should be read by every person working in higher education. "As it turns out, there is such a thing as "bad" education. It is an educational option that, by design, cannot increase students' odds of beating the circumstances of there birth." A masterpiece that should be read by every person working in higher education.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ken Saunders

    Marketing is fun to read about because it combines psychology and sociology with complete bullshit (or 'Bunk' as Kevin Young might call it). This book ties these together in its examination of education marketing, and even ultimately transcends the subject to tackle some fundamental causes of US economic inequality. In spite of this big scope, it is well-organized, easy to follow, and always engaging. The writing includes personal anecdotes about the author's experience working for two for-profi Marketing is fun to read about because it combines psychology and sociology with complete bullshit (or 'Bunk' as Kevin Young might call it). This book ties these together in its examination of education marketing, and even ultimately transcends the subject to tackle some fundamental causes of US economic inequality. In spite of this big scope, it is well-organized, easy to follow, and always engaging. The writing includes personal anecdotes about the author's experience working for two for-profit colleges (ever heard of the 'pain funnel'?), along with selected insightful statistics (percentages of students on welfare), and clear explanations of concepts that privilege can make difficult to grasp - for example, parents who refuse to cooperate with FAFSA requirements, the real relativity of debt burdens, and "manufacturing consent", to name just a few. The author presents it all with engaging flair. While she works through these concepts, I could envision the different schools and the people in them. Consider this description of the head of marketing at the beauty school: "He was tall on the top and short on the bottom." I may be disillusioned with the "education gospel" but I am now a big believer in this writer. I look forward to learning more from her in the future.

  28. 5 out of 5

    John Mihelic

    Lower Ed is a Powerhouse of a book. Professor Tressie McMillan Cottom does an excellent job looking at the privatized education system in America. It reminds me of my own time working as a student trying to get a certificate. I ran into people who had both been students and as professors and there's a certain type of student I really feel as if they're the ones being preyed upon by the system. She covers it as well but there is a subset of ambitious African American women from backgrounds that a Lower Ed is a Powerhouse of a book. Professor Tressie McMillan Cottom does an excellent job looking at the privatized education system in America. It reminds me of my own time working as a student trying to get a certificate. I ran into people who had both been students and as professors and there's a certain type of student I really feel as if they're the ones being preyed upon by the system. She covers it as well but there is a subset of ambitious African American women from backgrounds that aren't tied into the traditional education system that see these kinds of schools as the way up and out. It's a little distressing both of my own experience and in the reading to see those ambitions as realized only to see them as coming to fruition with degrees that don't have a lot of worth in the wider society either on the job market or the academic market. I can’t imagine spending the time and money investing in a degree that was worthless. Oh, wait, too late. It's a formal accusation about the schools and about the opportunities that you get on the other side of Education. It's a terrific book but it's heartbreaking.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Erica

    I thought this was a really good look into why some people choose to go to for-profit colleges. It might not be as interesting to anyone not in the field, but as someone who teaches full time at a community college (a college that is losing some of our students to for-profit colleges) it was interesting to see some of the reasons that might be. I think our administration should read this so that we can potentially better serve our students. ;-) Flexibility and high-pressure "sales" seems to be ke I thought this was a really good look into why some people choose to go to for-profit colleges. It might not be as interesting to anyone not in the field, but as someone who teaches full time at a community college (a college that is losing some of our students to for-profit colleges) it was interesting to see some of the reasons that might be. I think our administration should read this so that we can potentially better serve our students. ;-) Flexibility and high-pressure "sales" seems to be key reasons why for-profit colleges are succeeding. We could probably do a better job of following up with interested students, or students who attend one semester (or less!) and don't return, without using those super high-pressure tactics. At our college we also are working on flexibility by offering 8 week and online classes in addition to traditional classes. Offering classes that start every 3 weeks seems kind of absurd though, like some of the for-profit colleges profiled. Finding other ways to credential students other than just taking traditional classes is a hot area of research and debate in higher education.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gisselle

    Very interesting sociological account of for-profit schools. Well-written in the sense that Dr. Cottom described a phenomenon that is fairly ubiquitous and made it feel brand new without unnecessary novelty. She used plain language to get across complicated ideas, which was very helpful to me (I am the type who needs to re-read academic sentences constantly because I just don't get it, lol). The interviews with people in the process were enlightening because I think we all know at least some of Very interesting sociological account of for-profit schools. Well-written in the sense that Dr. Cottom described a phenomenon that is fairly ubiquitous and made it feel brand new without unnecessary novelty. She used plain language to get across complicated ideas, which was very helpful to me (I am the type who needs to re-read academic sentences constantly because I just don't get it, lol). The interviews with people in the process were enlightening because I think we all know at least some of the people described, but her sociological training put their decisions and thought process in a light I would not be able to see myself.

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