The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students
Getting in is only half the battle. The Privileged Poor reveals how--and why--disadvantaged students struggle at elite colleges, and explains what schools can do differently if these students are to thrive.
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.
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About the AuthorAnthony Abraham Jack, a native of Miami, received a scholarship to attend Gulliver Preparatory School, an elite private high school in South Florida. He went on to receive degrees from Amherst College and Harvard University. He is currently a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, an Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the Shutzer Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.
In a word, brilliant. Jack uncovers the myriad ways in which poverty handicaps even the most talented youth as they navigate college. Not stopping there, Jack carefully details how universities are no mere bystanders; he lays bare how they preach openness as they practice exclusion. The Privileged Poor is a provocative, eye-opening account of what it means to be poor on a college campus and is essential reading for all who are concerned about the future of our children.--Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code
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
Professor Anthony Jack illustrates the multidimensional nature of poverty and privilege by providing a window into the nuanced experiences of low-income, first-generation college students at elite institutions. Professor Jack's keen analysis and clear argument helps all of us--students, teachers, administrators, and system leaders--to identify and fill the cracks through which many students can fall. This important book will help us ensure even greater access, equity, and success in college for the vast array of talented students in our great American mosaic.--Daniel R. Porterfield, CEO, The Aspen Institute
Through meticulous interviews and rich personal narratives, Jack brilliantly brings alive the experiences of low-income college students at elite colleges and uncovers an important group--the 'privileged poor'--who have frequently been overlooked in prior work. This book should be studied closely by anyone interested in improving diversity and inclusion in higher education and provides a moving call to action for us all.--Raj Chetty, Harvard University
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
Anthony Jack's beautifully written book provides a riveting account of the experiences at elite campuses of students from low-income families. He shows how badly many elite schools understand the experiences of students from poor backgrounds and how these failures of understanding undermine efforts to expand access. The book is a must-read for anyone who hopes to help colleges and universities meet their aspirations to be engines of mobility.--Danielle Allen, author of Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.
In this insightful study, Anthony Abraham Jack examines how disparate precollege experiences affect the cultural and social resources economically disadvantaged students bring to elite colleges, and how they use these resources in navigating life on campus. The Privileged Poor is an eye opener even for a professor like me who has taught courses on inequality at elite universities for nearly a half century. It is, in short, a tour de force that will be read, discussed, and debated for decades.--William Julius Wilson, author of More than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City
Jack wants people to see beyond his personal success to his research findings: Elite colleges not only fail to admit enough low-income students; they also fail to care for the ones they let in.--Chris Quintana"Chronicle of Higher Education" (02/15/2019)
Jack looks under the hood, recounting the myriad ways that low-income students, who are overwhelmingly students of color, experienced the relationships and resources--or lack thereof--at an elite university...Colleges fail to understand and effectively step in to support low-income students in general, and the doubly disadvantaged in particular.--Julia Freeland Fisher"The 74" (12/09/2019)
Jack's well-researched study is matched by his advocacy for adding programs that could help bring these students closer to the already privileged.--Improper Bostonian (02/08/2019)
A book about social class in American higher education and the often painful culture clashes it gives rise to.--Matthew Reisz"Times Higher Education" (03/21/2019)
Jack's investigation redirects attention from the matter of access to the matter of inclusion. Rather than parse the spurious meritocracy of admissions, his book challenges universities to support the diversity they indulge in advertising.-- (06/20/2019)
[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 (04/02/2019)
A sobering reminder that, despite considerable efforts in recent years to increase the intake of talented young adults from disadvantaged backgrounds into leading universities and colleges, much more needs to be done to prepare and support them during their studies if they are to thrive.--Andrew Jack"Financial Times" (04/15/2019)
[An] examination of the way elite colleges and universities welcome, and don't welcome, students from the working classes.--Edwin Aponte"The Nation" (05/17/2019)
This book's central message is as plain as it is substantial: access is not the same as inclusion. Increasing the number of low-income students in higher education is only the start of a university's obligations...As a skillful interviewer and insightful observer, Jack reveals deep-seated class disparities that manifest themselves not just in the clothes students wear and the holidays they take, but in what they expect of their professors and envisage for themselves while in university and beyond. In so doing, Jack opens up new ground to interrogate the 'long shadow' of class inequality throughout the educational system. For all these reasons, this book is a considerable achievement.-- (05/16/2019)
The lesson is plain--simply admitting low-income students is just the start of a university's obligations. Once they're on campus, colleges must show them that they are full-fledged citizen.-- (04/01/2019)
[A] remarkable book...I believe every administrator, faculty and student in college should read this to understand some obstacles students encounter in college that often go unnoticed.--Andrew Martinez"Diverse: Issues in Higher Education" (08/27/2019)
What Jack contributes to the recent spate of books on college is not only the inside access to what we might reasonably presume to be America's oldest and most prestigious university, but the illumination of a distinct group of students within this elite institution.--Mitchell L. Stevens"Public Books" (10/14/2019)
Navigating college is hard for many young people, and for low-income students or kids whose parents didn't go to college, it can be even trickier...So many professors have told me this book made them rethink their own classrooms.--Elissa Nadworny"NPR Books" (12/01/2019)