In than in-state students or students who would be

In Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality, Elizabeth
Armstrong and Laura Hamilton study a group of freshman women over the course of
five-years, taking particular note of their social experience in college due to
their socioeconomic background as well as their post-graduate profession. And
what do they find? As a low-income student considering colleges with the hope
of a college degree providing a means of moving from working or lower-middle
classes into upper classes, a moderately selective four-year college, such as
Midwestern University, the pseudonym for the university described by Armstrong
and Hamilton, is not the best choice.

Out-of-state or wealthier students
who attend schools such as Midwestern University pay more than in-state
students or students who would be on need-based financial aid, providing a
significant financial incentive to accept those students. And thus, Midwestern
University is built towards students on the “party pathway”, or students who
have significant family resources and connections, and would be able to use
these advantages to procure a job post-graduation, rather than for those on the
“mobility pathway”, or those hoping to move to upper classes. Even the majors
offered by the university are geared towards the students who have a path that
has been pre-determined for them and thus these types of universities prove to
be a hinderance for lower-income student in the search for an upper class or
upper-middle class job post-graduation.

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We see the same idea of low-income
students failing to move up into the middle class post-graduation addressed by
Erik Olin Wright in Class Counts,
where he discusses the difference between what he calls the capitalist class
and the working class. Wright claims that working class is at a distinct
disadvantage in terms of moving to the capitalist class due to systemic
obstacles that are prevalent in the path to developing the skills necessary to
find a profession in the capitalist class. In the scenario described by
Armstrong and Hamilton in their book, this is exactly what is seen between the
students who began their college lives in that hall. Considering the students
from the upper and upper-middle classes to be a part of the capitalist class
and those from the middle, lower-middle and working classes to be part of the
working class, drawing these distinctions based on the professions of their
parents, we see the same outcome as what is claimed by Wright.

The idea of only certain skills
being useful to employers brings up Bourdieu and his idea of “cultural capital”,
which claims that certain elements such as professions, skills, talents,
connections and people one knows, tastes in music, clothing, etc., can bond individuals
together, and group them into certain classes. We start to see how this affects
the in-college experience of many students. For example, in Chapter 1 of Paying for the Party, Armstrong and
Hamilton discuss a pair of roommates, Hannah and Alyssa. Hannah came from an
affluent family, with no financial restrictions or worries. Alyssa, on the
other hand, was on financial aid and had financial concerns while in college
and had to work for her tuition, which took copious amounts of her time,
leaving her with only a little time for socialization after taking out time
necessary for studying. Hannah, with no requirement to work for tuition, was
able to take the time out to socialize and make friends. Hannah would claim
frequently that she always invited Alyssa to go out with them shopping or to
eat. However, these activities may have more stressful than enjoyable to Alyssa
due to the obvious financial cost that shopping or eating out, for example,
would imply.

There is a powerful video
in which a line of students about to enter college are about to begin college.
These students are to race to the end of the field. But before they can,
everyone with certain attributes, as specified by an outside party, can take
one step forward for each attribute. These attributes are things like parents
who were able to send them to extracurricular activities or private schools or
extra tuitions. At this point, some students are nearly half-way across, while
some are still at the start line. Now, they can race to end of the field. What
would the outcome be? Obviously, those with the head-start will have a higher
chance of finishing first. And that is exactly what we can see from Armstrong
and Hamilton, Wright and Bourdieu. Students from lower social classes, who do
not have skills or connections deemed worthy by employers, have a harder time
getting into colleges, much different social experiences in colleges and a much
more difficult time finding jobs that students who are supported by wealthier
families.