Polished: College, Class, and the Burdens of Social Mobility

Univ. of Chicago. May 2024. 224p. ISBN 9780226833040. pap. $22.50. ED
The idea that a college education can be socioeconomically transformative has been proven over decades—so much so that most post-secondary institutions put significant resources into recruiting and supporting first-generation and lower-income students. Though these support systems seemingly cover every aspect of college life (particularly at selective private schools), students still experience challenges. Osborne (sociology, Western Washington Univ.) theorizes that these challenges may stem from the conflicts students face in navigating social mobility while maintaining who they are. With information gathered through in-depth interviews with 150 students from 18 institutions across the U.S., Osborne delves into the paradoxical nature of institutional support, illustrating how it provides invaluable resources and opportunities but can also catalyze profound shifts in students’ personas, sometimes putting them at odds with their familial and cultural backgrounds. The book traces the evolution of student experiences and examines the initial hurdles they face, from acclimating to campus life to reconciling newfound privileges with familial ties and the complexities that arise from that.
VERDICT A nuanced exploration of identity, culture, and the emotional impact of social mobility and college education. Will appeal to fans of Anthony Abraham Jack’s The Privileged Poor and readers interested in post-secondary student success strategies.
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