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Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream [Kindle Edition]

Suzanne Mettler
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Once a sure path to the American Dream, college is now creating a caste system within American society

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Cornell University professor Mettler (The Submerged State, 2011) takes on the problems facing U.S. college students, particularly those attending the for-profit, so-called trade schools or career colleges. Attendance in such institutes of higher education, which “exploded nearly tenfold in less than two decades” to more than two million in 2010, has left its primary students, those from less-advantaged backgrounds, swimming in debt and unable to find work. Pell Grants have failed to expand with college costs, and political partisanship has resulted in the government waffling over student-loan debts while bowing to corporate interests. Mettler notes that the moneyed but basically unregulated for-profit schools are financed by American taxpayers through such mediums as the post-9/11 GI Bill and Department of Defense tuition-assistance benefits. As a result, the American dream slips further from the grasp of many, while the U.S. slips in worldwide standing to where 11 other nations currently have passed the U.S. in college-graduation rates. Reform is past due, and Mettler’s well-researched book needs to fall into the hands of those who will read, heed, and rally for change. --Eloise Kinney


Gary Rivlin, New York Times Book Review
“We’re having the wrong conversation about higher education in our country. So argues Suzanne Mettler in her provocative new book.... [A] thoroughly researched argument that leaves one both a little bit smarter about how politics work in this country and also very worried about a college and university system so clearly in crisis.”

Washington Post
"[A] provocative new book.... Mettler argues that this drift in public policy over the past quarter-century — in Washington and in statehouses — has exacerbated gaps between the haves and the have-nots, undermining the ideal of college as an engine of upward social mobility.”

Times Higher Education
“Mettler brings a fresh and original analysis to bear.”

Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“The long-running debate on higher education in America is masterfully served by Cornell political scientist Mettler’s carefully researched study, which roams between history, polemic, and analysis with aplomb while championing the positive legacy of equal opportunity in education.”

Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“Mettler delivers a broadside to for-profit universities and the politics that enrich them. The author spent eight years researching and writing her withering attack, and her data is devastating…. A thorough and deeply troubling analysis of a quiet but ominous threat to democracy.”

Library Journal (Starred Review)
“[A] timely and thorough discussion of unequal access to higher education.... This work is essential for students of programs in higher education policy, government, and political science as well as anyone interested in the current state of higher education.”

“Reform is past due, and Mettler’s well-researched book needs to fall into the hands of those who will read, heed, and rally for change.”

Thomas E. Mann, author of It’s Even Worse Than It Looks
Degrees of Inequality is a trenchant analysis of how our severely dysfunctional politics has undermined one of the foundational pillars of the American Dream. Mettler powerfully and convincingly demonstrates how partisan polarization and plutocratic biases have shaped higher education policy in recent years and why reform is so urgent. An engaging and essential read for citizens and policymakers alike.”

Thomas B. Edsall, Columbia University, author of The Age of Austerity
“Suzanne Mettler’s Degrees of Inequality reveals why American higher education is no longer the great equalizer. Instead of providing an avenue to opportunity and advancement, American colleges, especially burgeoning for-profit schools, are contributing to mounting inequality, reinforcing rather than breaking class divisions. The for-profit schools are corrupting the system by syphoning off federal resources and leaving many of the students worse off, burdened by debt and lacking a degree. Mettler’s important book documents the destructive forces in higher education, forces fostered and nurtured by a Congress that has abdicated responsibility to ensure the strength of this country’s most important engine of social mobility.”

Product Details

  • File Size: 1038 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (March 4, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G1SD55C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #305,022 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How can we improve access to higher education? March 23, 2014
Suzanne Mettler shows how the American lead in higher education has slipped away due to polarized partisan politics and Congressional lobbying, in Degrees of Inequality. This is a carefully researched book that shows how too few lower income Americans are getting college degrees, even if they have high test scores, and how too many American kids are leaving college saddled with oppressive debts. While there is plenty of blame to go around, Mettler focuses on two issues: (1) Congress’ inability to provide support for public and private higher education that actually enables kids from all classes to obtain degrees, and (2) the for-profit college industry’s high profits, enormous salaries, and indefatigable lobbying efforts. She methodically demonstrates how for-profit colleges recruit aggressively, rely on taxpayer funded federal grants, influence Congressional votes, and leave their students with debts so high that many are completely unable to repay them. The stories of veterans who thought they were getting a free education, who then have to stare down enormous loans they did not even realize they had contracted, are heartbreaking and maddening. This book is a call to duty to get the US Congress to provide more effective support for college students -- and to regulate the for-profit college industry.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Send this book to your Senator and Representative! April 3, 2014
Suzanne Mettler has written an important book, which should be on the nightstand of everyone in government who has anything to do with higher education. Mettler makes a well documented argument explaining how politics in this country has sabotaged what is one of this nation’s most valuable institutions. Mettler’s historical analysis demonstrates that higher education was perceived- from colonial times through the middle of the twentieth century as fundamental to democracy. After the GI Bill and the creation of Pell Grants, however, things started to go awry. Mettler tells the story in detail in an almost a suspenseful style—showing how the banks went from balking at supporting student loans—to understanding that there was money to be made—and lobbying hard for financial incentives which would favor the banks at the expense of the students. Mettler explains how Republicans stopped criticizing the incentives to banks as excessive government and instead applauded the “market based” approach to student lending. At about the same time, ironically, it was Clinton who seized on “tax credits” to support higher education. In fact, tax credits had always been opposed by Democrats- but now the tables turned. And the result was not to expand accessibility to a broader swath of students. In fact these tax based initiatives only resulted in benefiting the more affluent students –not the first generation and poorer students trying to break into America’s dream.
And this, for Mettler, is the most disturbing fact—that the educational system which our founders – and indeed our leaders right through the middle of the twentieth century—saw as fundamental to participatory democracy has now become divisive- not inclusive.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well researched and illuminating March 22, 2014
Mettler's latest project highlights the bigger picture of higher education - why interventions and local efforts can only go so far. The book has two main veins - first, providing an overview of the political system through vignettes about higher education legislation efforts. Through these stories it's easy, and frustrating, to see how original intent evolves (or devolves) into policy outcomes. Second, lambasting the forprofit higher education sector, revealing shocking numbers about the high percentage of revenues the top forprofit schools receive purely from government funds (averaging in the 80% area, with some topping 90%), the Wall Street-style salaries forprofit corporate officers and employees earn, and the unethical means through which the forprofit "admissions" salespeople lure students into accumulating high levels of debt without earning a degree.

It's a well researched guide to the current state of higher education that presents information in an accessible and engaging manner; while occasionally depressing in its outline of how important (and difficult to influence) top-down policy legislation is in higher education, overall I was inspired to engage in further research and "consciousness-raising" about these issues.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful study of high cost of higher education July 9, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you are interested in what's happening in higher education in America, this book is well worth reading. The author, a professor at Cornell University, concentrates on the public education system in the U.S. and gives the history of how our university system developed. The book gave me a far better understanding of the different attitudes toward private vs. public colleges the East and the West of the country. Prof. Mettler's focus is the politics behind the development of higher education policy during the post-WWII years. She is very concerned about the growth of for-profit universities which receive the bulk of tax-based borrowing for colleges. Many of them target working class students many of whom over-borrow and cannot find jobs. They drop out of school and many default on their student loans. We read a lot about the burden of student debt, this books helps to explain how this problem has grown. Unfortunately it is likely to be difficult to get Congress to change the system.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly relevant book!
Important book to better understand how much lobbyists have influenced contemporary higher education. Must read for all higher education administrators or students.
Published 25 days ago by Consuela Mitchell
1.0 out of 5 stars Save your money, read the introduction and you will ...
Save your money, read the introduction and you will be done. I use it as an sleeping aid ... google her lecture for free.
Published 2 months ago by isabel napier
4.0 out of 5 stars An Eye-Opener of a Book
This is an eye-opening book about the intersection of money, politics, and education as they affect how institutions are run. Read more
Published 2 months ago by WMD55
5.0 out of 5 stars insightful and important work
This book explains many of the complex phenomena that have eroded higher education's role in ameliorating class inequality. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Dr. Laura M. Harrison
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must read book for every American citizen
This is the most thorough and dispassionate book on the downfall of the American higher education. After leading the world for many generations, in the last twenty years we have... Read more
Published 5 months ago by H. Parsapour
3.0 out of 5 stars Good history but not convincing
The author's thesis is that politics has messed up the American educational system beyond high school. Read more
Published 6 months ago by PlatoFromTexas
4.0 out of 5 stars Great explanation on why the education is the way it is
I read this book for a class. It was a well-written piece on the state of higher education in the United States. Read more
Published 6 months ago by E. Campbell
1.0 out of 5 stars I made it all the way to page 20 and ...
I made it all the way to page 20 and spotted an would think that she would have fact checked. Peter Thiel DID go to college....he actually went to law school as well. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Julie
4.0 out of 5 stars Good History of US Higher Education, But Important Analysis and...
Suzanne Mettler's book, "Degrees of Inequality," recognizes some of the political and economic problems that we face in US higher education. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Dahn Shaulis
4.0 out of 5 stars Politics in an Accuract perspective.
Mettler's book has two strengths. First, she has identified the most important issues involved with the politics of higher education. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Dropo
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