Paul Tough on Why College Years ‘Matter Most’

New book offers deep dive into social mobility, inequality in higher education
(EWA Radio: Episode 218)

Photo courtesy of the author

In his new book, “The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes Us or Breaks Us,” author Paul Tough looks at inequities in access to high-quality higher education, specifically, the opportunity to earn degrees that research says lead to high-paying jobs, social mobility, and according to some research, better health and a longer life. Tough spent six years analyzing extensive research and data, and interviewing the people whose lives are affected by these challenges. He brings the wonky educational research to life by showing how policies affect high-need students waiting anxiously for their acceptance letters and the admissions officers struggling to push the gates open just a little bit wider. He casts light on some of the most important puzzles of the day, such as how college entrance exams like the SAT factor into the debate over equity and access. What does the research show is working — or falling short — in efforts by colleges to attract more low-income and first-generation students? And where can reporters find fresh angles and story ideas in covering not just elite institutions but the state schools and community colleges educating the vast majority of the nation’s postsecondary students?

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