Cottom, McMillan, Tressie

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


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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