As Policy Works Against Them, Low-Income Students Struggle to Complete College

Mike Rose in the Boston Review:

ScreenHunter_678 Jun. 05 19.37It is early in the morning on a hazy Southern California day, and students are walking or riding old bicycles into the community college campus, headed for 7:00 a.m. classes in English or math, nursing or automotive technology. The college is packed into twenty-five acres on the economically depressed periphery of the city’s thriving financial core, and it draws on one of the poorest populations in the area. Men sleep under newspapers and blankets in doorways right outside the school. One block away a line is already forming along the wall of a social service agency. The short, bare walkway into the campus is for many a luminous road into another world.

This college could serve as ground zero for Suzanne Mettler’s important new book Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream, which analyzes diminishing postsecondary educational opportunity over the past thirty years, particularly for students in the lower half of the income distribution. If they are not deterred from attending college, students face soaring tuition, inadequate financial aid, and increased debt. To make matters worse, most states have been slashing higher education budgets, forcing colleges to offer fewer classes and services. That trend is beginning to reverse, though spending still is below what it was a decade ago.

Mettler explains how this came to be: how our extreme political partisanship and the increasing influence of big money have contributed to this mess.

More here.