Sunday, February 26, 2017

Lit. Review #1

Mettler, Suzanne. Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream. New York: Basic , a member of the Perseus Group, 2014. Print

In Degrees of Inequality by Suzanne Mettler, she introduces the book by stating a date (February 18, 2011), and giving the reason as to why that date has significant meaning: Republicans and Democrats were able to show bi-partisanship on the issue of for-profit colleges, and allowing them more funding in order to continue to create inequality through their useless prospects of education in addition to lumping thousands of dollars of debt to millions of for-profit college students all across the country. Although I have only read the first 70 or so pages of the book, the main idea is essentially all in the title. Shortly after World War II, the GI Bill was introduced, followed by the Higher Education Act of 1965 from President Johnson. Both of these legislates ushered in a time of growth and prosperity that was short lived, unfortunately. Beginning with the Presidency of Richard Nixon and continuing strongly with the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, students began to see their federal aid shrink along with rising tuition rates, forcing more and more students to take out federal loans and creating Sallie Mae, a ruthless corporation that thrives off of default student loans and putting students in the most precarious financial situations of their lives. The United States at one time was seen as the college super power of the world, seeing unsubstantiated growth in high school graduates attending college as well receiving four year degrees, with not much in student loans needed. Now, most of the student population in the US needs to take out loans for every semester of schooling. This cycle has spiraled out of control to the point where higher education is giving us less and less returns, and the money we pour into it is getting larger and larger.

Suzanne Mettler is a renown publisher and professor at Cornell Univeristy. She has other books in addition to Degrees of Inequality, one of them being Soldiers to Citizens: The GI Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation. Clearly, she is extremely knowledgeable about the the makings of higher education not just in our time period, but of time periods well before her time. Her knowing the ins and outs of the GI Bill only makes her case stronger in Degrees of Inequality.

One key concept Mettler speaks about is the policyscape, or the combination of the words "political landscape". She says, "The current policyscape, a political landscape cluttered with policies created in the past and dense with the organizations and industries they have promulgated, has fundamentally changed the task confronting elected officials" (Mettler 41). Essentially, over time, policies have been created to benefit organizations and industries that play to the ear of politics and most likely donate millions of dollars to lobby politicians and have them in their "pockets", to say quite frankly. Over the decades, this has been happening constantly in order to undermine students and higher education legislation.

Another key concept is the rise of plutocracy. She explains, "...lawmakers are responsive to the needs of powerful industries and wealthy households, and less so to those of the vast majority of Americans" (Mettler 45). This concept ties directly into the policyscape. Politicians do whatever they can in order to make the large industries and households better off since those are the establishments channeling millions of dollars into offices, campaigns, and the like. It is closely related to the idea of  "pay-to-play" politics, paying money to your local, state, or federal politicians in order to have them represent a certain idea that you feel would be beneficial to you or your company or your industry. This is happening more and more, and it needs to stop if we, the American people, want any chance of taking back the reigns to higher education for all in this country.

"This helps to explain the altered stance of congressional Republicans beginning in the 1990s, when after decades of skepticism towards student aid, they suddenly found a political opportunity in it--the means to cater to banks and for-profit college that might in turn contribute to their campaigns" (Mettler 47).

"Yet the rise of partisan polarization has undermined the capacity of policymakers to engage in these fundamental tasks. And when lawmakers do legislate, they often cater primarily to powerful monied interests and wealthy households" (Mettler 20).

"Now, more individuals than ever from every income group pursue a college education...Their greates obstacle to completing a four-year degree is not lack of ability or motivation, but insufficient financial support" (Mettler 28).

This book is going to be one of my main sources because of the fact that the book is dedicated to explaining how student loans have gotten out of hand due to politicians catering to the banks and Sallie Mae's of the world. My research is to focus on the predator, and this book is chock full of information for my research.

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