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The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  989 ratings  ·  136 reviews
Getting in is only half the battle. The Privileged Poor reveals how--and why--disadvantaged students struggle at elite colleges, and explains what schools can do differently if these students are to thrive.

The Ivy League looks different than it used to. College presidents and deans of admission have opened their doors--and their coffers--to support a more diverse student b
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 1st 2019 by Harvard University Press
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Average rating 4.25  · 
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 ·  989 ratings  ·  136 reviews

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Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So happy to start off 2020 with this fantastic book. In The Privileged Poor, Anthony Abraham Jack shares the experiences of disadvantaged students attending an elite private university (referred to as “Renowned” throughout the book). He writes about the privileged poor, low-income students who had the privilege of attending private elite high schools prior to enrolling at Renowned, and the doubly disadvantaged, low-income students who did not attend prestigious preparatory schools before coming ...more
Carolyn Kost
May 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: education
As a long time college counselor and professor, I have many issues with this book. First, it's fine as a small-scale limited scope ethnographic study of Harvard and how it fails to consider the ways it hoards privilege and render equal services in every way to poor and rich alike. However, this book in no way should be ascribed greater significance as some larger commentary on social class and elite institutions--the sample size is minuscule (n=100) and overwhelmingly female (I counted 15 males ...more
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: college
This is important, and all college administrators need to read this book. There are many other facets to the situation that the author didn't delve into... and he's honest about that... but hopefully either he or others will explore this topic further. What's happening to these kids is unconscionable and it needs to be remedied.

The sheer lack of awareness is astonishing, which just goes to show we often don't know what we don't know. Which is also a display of just how wide the gap is between t
Jacqueline Flores
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This should be a required reading for every university official.
Sam Lien
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: college, non-fiction
The answer is not to pluck the lucky few out of their distressed communities and place them in an environment of abundant resources; the answer is to bring those incredible resources into distressed communities.

This book studies two groups of students at a pseudonymized Renowned University: the Privileged Poor are students who hail from a working-class or poor background but go on to attend private, wealthy high schools before entering Renowned; the Doubly Disadvantaged are students who hail fro
John Tyson
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
While the main points of this book certainly deserve attention, I thought Jack’s writing and research were only “okay”.

The most compelling parts of the book were the conversations with various students, especially those that were *not* editorialized by the author.

I give it a three stars for form and five stars for function.

Sep 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Yes, there are serious cultural problems on elite colleges' and universities' campuses, wherein students of color from less-privileged socio-economic backgrounds deal with endless micro-aggressions and insensitivity; culture shock; disparities in spending power that create stress, isolation, and humiliation; difficulties navigating unfamiliar things like office hours and relationships with authority figures; and their own reluctance to ask for help for a broad range of reasons. They may also be ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Access is not inclusion."

Renowned, the name the author uses as a placeholder for Harvard, and as a replacement for both this Ivy League university, and the situations other privilege poor (PP) and/or the double disadvantaged (DD) face in other elite schools around the country.

Two terms used throughout the book are the PP and DD. PP are those who come from a disadvantaged background but attended highly competitive prep schools, or boarding schools in middle and/or high school, makin
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Timothy Hall
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book largely focuses on the "privileged poor" and the "doubly disadvantaged." The "privileged poor" are low income students who came to elite colleges via elite private high schools. The "doubly disadvantaged" are low income students who came to elite colleges from public high schools. The author spent significant time at an elite college interviewing these and other students. He observes that low income students from elite private high schools differ from doubly disadvantaged students espe ...more
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It captured so much of what I experienced living and advising on an elite college campus (and I could NOT help but wonder if it took place at Harvard!).

So important that this has been distilled into clear themes and actionable changes for people who are doing the work to be better about expanding not just access but also belonging in these spaces.
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in higher education admin and especially the experiences of low income students at elite universities. As a former one, I definitely wanted to share my experience and and glad students were able to w Anthony Jack. In this book he has conversations w two groups, the Doubly Disadvantaged (low income students from public schools) & the Privileged Poor (low income students from private schools) about their experiences at the same university ...more
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Worthy and important research, however I felt it read a bit too much like a master’s thesis and not a book.
Feb 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Anthony Jack synthesized the stories of many students at a pseudonymous "Renowned" university to show what attending college as a disadvantaged student is like. He used the tools of academic sociology (he is a professor at Harvard who received his PhD in Sociology, also from Harvard) to fit his narrative and observations into a format that college administrators and wealthy elites can connect with.

I really enjoyed the end of the book, which described his research methodology in detail. Jack foc
Z. Yasemin
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
colleges especially elite schools.... they try to diversify their campuses for many reasons but first of all; it is a must now for them to increase diversity and put a diverse studebt body picture to their website so they can bring even more money to the university....

However, whether these students from different background and particularly minority groups (low socio economic status, first generarion college students etc) feel belong in college or not is a question we should ask (?)
“Access ain’
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a book I highly recommend to everyone who has any connection at all with colleges and universities in the US. If you are a student, were a student, or want to be a student at a (n elite) college you should read this. If you work at a college or work with students who will be attending colleges in the US this work is majorly important.

Jack has unpacked many of the burdens of attending the US' elite institutions as a low income individual through an underused lens. By comparing and contras
Jordana Churchill
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was kind of an kind of an emotional read for me. Not only did I have a lot of rich classmates where I went to school, but the fact that it is an urban school even though I am from a rural town was a big culture shock. In urban areas, visual status symbols seem to be more important than in rural areas (Guns, Germs, and Steal has a good part on that). So maybe if I had gone to a smaller more rural school, my experience would have been different.

For example...

I guess I was one of the students
Mar 30, 2020 rated it liked it
As a low-income, first-generation, rural college student, I will spend my entire life re-examining my path and life choices. The fact that I finished college at all is nothing short of amazing.

This book had nothing to do with my own experiences, but it was interesting. The research looked at differences between low income students who attend a fancy private school for 9-12 grade and contrasts their experiences with low income students who go from a public high school into an elite college. You
Oct 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a report by an African-American sociologist on a study of the experiences of minority students who have newly arrived at a highly prestigious elite eastern college (A pseudonym is used so I cannot say if it is Harvard and I will not even suggest it.). The intuition behind this study is to consider the difficulties that minority student have once they matriculate and the effects on these students of different degrees of preparation that these students have depending on both their family b ...more
Ryan Denson
Jul 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
The Privileged Poor deals with the author’s sociological study of lower-income students at an Ivy League university, which he uses the pseudonym, Renowned for, but it is most likely Harvard.

The students from lower-income backgrounds are divided into two categories, using terms coined by Jack. The Privileged Poor are those who come from a lower-income background, but managed to gain admission to an elite prep school before coming to Renowned. As such, they are already accustomed to being among p
Cami Duron
It makes sense to me that regardless of how much a university tries, a student needs to feel that they are welcome in order to fully embrace all that the campus has to offer in resources. I feel like people often expect those who come from different circumstances to just feel grateful for the opportunity they have been given, rather than allowing them room to experience underrated things like the major culture shock. Where you come from and how you grow up have major impacts on you for your enti ...more
Nancy Campos
Jun 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Anthony Abraham Jack looks into the world of elite colleges and the students who attend these institutions. He tells a story of what it is like for several groups of students and provides clear guidance of what administrators can do differently to ensure that the most marginalized students also have positive experiences and are able to take full advantage of the resources and opportunities that come with an elite education. The sad truth of what the students experience is laid out clearly with m ...more
Jason Furman
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A sociological study of how disadvantaged students fare at the pseudonymous “Renowned University” (my guess is Harvard, but I have no inside information) based on years of extensive interviews and observation. Anthony Jack distinguishes between three groups: “upper income,” “privileged poor” (poor parents but went on scholarship to prep school), and “doubly disadvantaged” (poor parents and went to a poor school). In his telling, cultural divides put the upper income and privileged poor on the sa ...more
Jan 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read this with my departmental colleagues, mostly during the fall 2019 semester (#ScholCommBookClub) The title made a splash at small, liberal arts colleges last year, so we decided to read it. The author's main point is that experiences among students of color at elite institutions are varied, and we shouldn't lump them together. He creates three categories: Privileged Poor, Doubly Disadvantaged, and Upper Income. The PP are low-income students who went to an elite secondary school and have a ...more
Nov 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poverty, college
I came across this book while reading an article by Anthony Jack in the NY Times on the same topic. He makes the strong case that providing academic, college scholarship to economically challenged students is not enough to make them successful. The college environment is so foreign and abstract to many students, that their backgrounds and experience can hinder their academic success. Jack explores 2 sets of he calls the Privileged Poor (PP), students who have benefited from priva ...more
Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So. Good. Read this for my own professional development but I also identified with it personally. Jack described the difference between students who are the privileged poor (poor kids who went to private and elite high schools [typically on scholarship] that prepared them for college) and the doubly disadvantaged (poor students who went to poor secondary schools who also ended up at elite colleges/universities). I saw so much of my own experience reflected in the doubly disadvantaged. While I di ...more
Feb 13, 2021 rated it liked it
An important point this book makes: admitting/hiring/bringing in people from groups who have been historically underrepresented does not necessarily mean your institution is going to be inclusive or good for those people once they get there. Ie diversity, inclusion, and equity requires more than just opening the gates.
Jack's central concept, Privileged Poor vs. Doubly Disadvantaged, seemed almost too neat--there seemed to be near-total homogeneity of experience within those groups. The emphasis
Viridiana Villalva Salas
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Jack's writing is smart, thought-provoking, and personal. I highly recommend this book to anyone working in education, especially people who work in admissions at colleges and universities. This book highlights the unseen inequity and provides language for the experiences of young people facing racism, oppression, and further marginalization within higher education. I had the privilege of meeting with Jack on Connecticut College's campus, where he presented a guest lecture and open forum. If it ...more
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
And excellent and timely resource for any higher ed professionals at selective institutions. It addresses not only the current dilemma of supporting economically disadvantaged students beyond scholarships but also the diversity found within that same group. It reiterated the importance of relationship-building, the assumptions we make about knowledge students have coming to college, and policy changes we can make to better support these same students so they can participate fully in the college ...more
Rachel Renbarger
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have manyyyy thoughts, but I am going to write a large portion of them in a formal book review soon so don't need to go into much detail here.

Pros: easy to read, uses student voices, could always use more research on educational issues faced by marginalized/low income students

Cons: descriptions of females, victim blaming, and lack of reading up on educational research on these topics

Anyone want to pay me to write a book about poverty and educational access? I'll include education researchers
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Anthony Abraham Jack is Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Shutzer Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. He has written for the New York Times and the Washington Post, and his research has been featured on The Open Mind, All Things Considered, and CNN. The Privileged Poor was named an NPR Books Best Book of 2019.

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