First published as The Years That Matter Most
From best-selling author Paul Tough, an indelible and explosive book on the glaring injustices of higher education, including unfair admissions tests, entrenched racial barriers, and crushing student debt. Now updated and expanded for the pandemic era.
When higher education works the way it’s supposed to, there is no better tool for social mobility—for lifting young people out of challenging circumstances and into the middle class and beyond. In reality, though, American colleges and universities have become the ultimate tool of social immobility—a system that secures a comfortable future for the children of the wealthy while throwing roadblocks in the way of students from struggling families.
Combining vivid and powerful personal stories with deep, authoritative reporting, Paul Tough explains how we got into this mess and explores the innovative reforms that might get us out. Tough examines the systemic racism that pervades American higher education, shows exactly how the SATs give an unfair advantage to wealthy students, and guides readers from Ivy League seminar rooms to the welding shop at a rural community college. At every stop, he introduces us to young Americans yearning for a better life—and praying that a college education might help them get there.
With a new preface and afterword by the author exposing how the coronavirus pandemic has shaken the higher education system anew.