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Like his Biblical namesake, author Paul Tough has spent his career evangelizing. His gospel is the potential of college education to transform the lives of individuals and communities, if only the structural barriers to a degree can be overcome.

Tough recently visited Detroit to talk about his latest book, which makes a compelling, evidence-based argument that higher education remains the greatest engine for social mobility in American society. “The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us” illustrates years of social research through the real-life experiences of actual Americans, particularly low-income students and students of color, for whom the climb to a degree has been particularly fraught.

As the chair of a university board, I am already a disciple of Tough’s gospel. Over the past decade, however, a chorus of loud voices —from the pages of trusted newspapers to the halls of Congress and beyond — have made Americans skeptical about the value proposition of a college education.


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