How the University Works

One of the books on my shelf to read is How the University Works: Higher Education at the Low-Wage Nation by Marc Bousquet, a professor of English at Santa Clara who blogs at and the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Brainstorm blog. I’m looking forward to reading the book, which examines systemic problems in higher education.  Here’s a brief blurb from the back:

Burdened by debt, millions of undergraduates work multiple part-time jobs – but quit before they earn a degree.  Meanwhile college presidents, basketball coaches, and corporate interests rake in millions, even at schools where fewer than half of students earn a degree in six years.

Convicting, eh?  Little did I know that my personal experiences tangentially related to the book.  One chapter deals with the partnership between the University of Louisville (my alma mater) and UPS, which provides students with financial aid in exchange for working the midnight to 3am shift at UPS’ Louisville hub – physically demanding, repetitive, high-injury work.  This partnership began when I was a student, with much hype and fanfare that was a “win-win” for students, the university, and UPS.  In reality, the students I knew who were in this program fell asleep in the middle of class, fell behind in their classes, and, according to Bousquet, failed to obtain degrees at an astounding rate – he estimates that only 12% of students in the UPS program earned a degree while in the program. 

Bousquet has made an abstract of the chapter available as Extreme Work-Study, Part 1 and Part 2.  A PDF of the complete chapter is available as a free download. 

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