Blogger and scholar Tressie McMillan Cottom is writing about her work as an “admissions” counselor at a for-profit university and subsequent research on the reasons that [primarily low-income] students are drawn to such expensive yet low-status places. She writes that as she now asks students at her elite college whey they did not enroll at one of the many for-profits that they know about from TV ads and billboards, and they respond straightforwardly: “That ‘s not a school for people like them.”.
Similarly, those attending the for-profits have internalized a sense of where they belong:
For-profit students are similarly hesitant during interviews when I ask them to discuss the milieu in which their educational choices were made. Even when fiercely proud of their education — and many of them are — there is a point of anger for many when asked to explain why a for-profit and not an area traditional college.
There is a sense, often unarticulated until I start prodding, that they made the best choice available to them.
Cottom frames the admissions decisions within deeper structural stratification, and despite the many ads for non-profits showing confident, aspiring young people nodding sagely at their computer screens or books, she finds that decisions to attend for-profits are embedded in pain of living at the bottom rungs of unequal social structures:
But the greatest correspondence between my data and the for-profit sector’s growth, admissions and matriculation processes is with the weakness in the economy. One finding jumps out immediately: more than educational aspiration and personal edification, fear and insecurity motivates the for-profit students I am interviewing.
This is brilliant and important work that I’ll be following.