PsycCRITIQUES Blog: Is It Really This Bad for Young Women at Public Universities?

PsycCRITIQUES Blog: Is It Really This Bad for Young Women at Public Universities?

Is It Really This Bad for Young Women at Public Universities?

APADana Dunn’s review of Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton’s book Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality scared the daylights out of me. Is it really this bad for women at public universities? Does this review resonate with others, including students, recent grads, faculty, and parents? Are the perceptions in the quotation below consistent with your own perceptions? Dunn states:

Some less-affluent women choose easy majors (often opting for careers that do not require a bachelor’s degree, such as wedding planning or travel management) in lieu of challenging and marketable ones (e.g., natural science, economics, finance); others party hearty so much that their grades slip precipitously while their debts mount continuously. Some transfer to regional universities, where they regroup and often succeed in a less expensive, less Greek-life centered setting; others leave school altogether; and still others hang on at MU (Midwestern University), forever on the outside looking in at the socially successful girls who master the Greek universe with ease in preparation for replicating the class structure and folkways they were born to (admittedly, often with parental support and connections that are graciously, never grudgingly, given).

Dunn goes on to note that “[m]any end up back where they started, in small, often rural, communities with little or no professional opportunities.” And later he states,

Worse yet, the administrative and student services sides of MU are complicit in maintaining, even encouraging, a class-based system that socially, educationally, and financially harms those from less-privileged backgrounds who come hoping for the promise of upward social mobility. By paying for the party, relatively few women from modest or impoverished backgrounds are able to use the college experience as a springboard for social class mobility.

Is it really this bad? If so, what can be done to improve the situation? Should women avoid public universities in favor of private schools and small liberal arts colleges, no matter what it takes?

Read the Review