The author of the New York Times and international bestseller How Children Succeed reveals the growing social crisis in universities
What has gone wrong in our universities? And how do we make it right?
When Amy applied to university, she thought she’d be judged purely on her merits. But she never thought that her family background would have as much impact on her future as her grades.
When KiKi arrived at university, she knew she could be the only black woman in her class. But she didn’t know how out of place she would feel, nor how unwelcoming her peers would be.
When Orry graduated from university, he was told he’d probably land a six-figure salary. But he wasn’t told he’d end up barely scraping a living wage, struggling to feed his children.
Drawing on the stories of hundreds of American students, The Years That Matters Most is a revelatory account of a university system in crisis.
Paul Tough, bestselling author of How Children Succeed, exposes a world where small-town colleges go bust, while the most prestigious raise billions every year; where overstretched admissions officers are forced to pick rich candidates over smart ones; where black and working-class students are left to sink or swim on uncaring campuses. Along the way, he uncovers cutting-edge research from the academics leading the way to a new kind of university – one where students succeed not because of their background, but because of the quality of their minds.
The result is a call-to-arms for universities that work for everyone, and a manual for how we can make it happen.
“Indelible and extraordinary, a powerful reckoning with just how far we’ve allowed reality to drift from our ideals. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of higher education to the present moment.”
Tara Westover, New York Times Book Review
“[An] important new book on the broken promises of higher education . . . heart-rending.”
New York Times
“In this fascinating study, education journalist Tough argues persuasively that access to an elite college education, which in the US is popularly believed to be a meritocratically distributed social equalizer, is in fact distributed in ways that reinforce existing economic divisions . . . This well-written and persuasive book is likely to make a splash.”
“[A] readable kiss-and-tell study . . . Tough finds that higher education, which has the potential to increase upward mobility, has become an obstacle that perpetuates social rigidity. The poor remain poor and the rich get richer . . . this study is laced with deep anger”
Times Higher Education