The Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up on Educating Your Child and What You Can Do About It

ForeWord Book of the Year Award winner

"The Five-Year Party provides the most vivid portrait of college life since Tom Wolfe's 2004 novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons. The difference is that it isn't fiction. The alcohol-soaked, sex-saturated, drug-infested campuses that Mr. Brandon writes about are real. His book is a roadmap for parents on how to steer clear of the worst of them…. The Five-Year Party is a useful handbook for parents to pack when they take their teenager on a college tour, and its list of suggested questions is smart. My favorite: How many of the school's professors send their own children there?”
—The Wall Street Journal

“High costs and debt, insufficient instruction, dangerous campuses, and poor job prospects: for too many students, a five-year college party often turns into a lifelong nightmare. The Five-Year Party is packed with illuminating stories and details about this crisis situation, and helps readers to avoid the dangers and get the most for their money.”
—Marc Scheer, author, No Sucker Left Behind: Avoiding the Great College Rip-Off

"In one dismaying and maddening episode and circumstance after another, Craig Brandon's survey of college campuses sounds a vital warning for parents: 'The institutions and administrators you trust to foster and guide your children's formation are more interested in their pocketbooks than their intellects. Buyer beware!'"
—Mark Bauerlein, author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future

“After reading only a few pages of The Five-Year Party, I immediately started telling people about its important message. This crucial book exposes the consumer mentality now all too prevalent on college campuses, detailing how higher education has given students what they want at the expense of giving them what they need to compete in the global marketplace. Even better, the book tells parents and educators how this nefarious trend can be circumvented. Any parent who wants their college-bound teen to actually learn something for their heaps of tuition money should read this book.”
—Jean M. Twenge, author of Generation Me and co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic

"With broad, unforgiving strokes, Craig Brandon paints a dark picture of residential college life that will give every parent pause before sending a child off to any of his 'Party Schools.'"
—Barrett Seaman, author of Binge: Campus Life in an Age of Disconnection and Excess

Colleges look much the same as they did five or ten years ago, but a lot has changed behind the scenes. While some mixture of study and play has always been part of college life, an increasing number of schools have completely abandoned the idea that students need to learn or demonstrate that they've learned. Financial pressures have made college administrations increasingly reluctant to flunk anyone out, regardless of performance, although the average length of time to get a degree is now five years, and for many students it's six or more. Student evaluations of professors—often linked to promotion and tenure decisions—have made professors realize that applying tough standards, or any standards, only hurts their own career progress. For many professors, it's become easier and more rewarding to focus on giving entertaining lectures and to give everyone reasonably good grades.

The worst of these schools are the "subprime" colleges, where performance standards and accountability have been completely abandoned. Students enjoy a five year party with minimal responsibilities while their parents pay the bills. These schools' investment decisions (first-class gyms and dining centers) are all geared to attracting students that want to have a good time, and their brochures all emphasize the fun aspects of the college experience—there are very few pictures of students actually studying or in class. And after graduation, former students are frequently unable to find work in their chosen fields, thanks to their school’s reputation with employers, and unable to afford the payments on sizable student loans.

The subprime colleges, which "teach" a significant percentage of college students, are only the tip of the iceberg. All colleges, even the most elite, have moved in this direction to some extent. If you are a parent sending your child to college, "The Five-Year Party" will give you critical information you need about what is really happening at your child's college, and what you can do to ensure help your child gets a real education.

Reviews from

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By Mary Ronan (Spokane, WA) · ★★★☆☆ · May 30, 2011
A good friend went off to college last fall and signed up for a major in Great Books with a minor in history. She started reading Plato and Euripides and studying early US history. Hmm, I thought, maybe the alarms about grade inflation, binge drinking on campus, extremely high college tuitions, l... ...more
By Blog on Books (Los Angeles, CA) · ★★★★★ · August 10, 2010
It’s no secret that college tuition costs are at an all time high, but are you really getting what you paid for? Many parents are not so sure. Now, they can find out with the publication of an alarming new book, “The Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up on Educating Your Child and What You... ...more
By Bojan (Greencastle, IN) · ★★★★★ · January 01, 2013
The troubles that the higher education as a whole is finding itself in have been finding increasingly featured in the media and books in recent years. The exorbitant rise in tuition and other expenses, the ballooning college debt that has recently passed one trillion dollars, and the increasing i... ...more
By Shay (The United States) · ★★☆☆☆ · May 07, 2013
Full of statistics and facts, but a bit short on the deeper analysis. Brandon is quick to blame universities, administrators, professors, and students, but somehow misses the fact that most of the party schools he lists are state schools/public universities, while the more elite schools he mentio... ...more
By Angel (Berea, KY) · ★★☆☆☆ · December 13, 2010
Initially, this book started interesting, but after a while Brandon's strong biases, including his desire for more in loco parentis and treating 18-year-olds like minors, basically overwhelmed the book. That there is a slight hysterical and/or alarmist tone to the book probably does not help. And... ...more
By Cameron · ★★★☆☆ · June 04, 2012
Brandon has some valid points about the transformation of higher education - from learning and educationally focused to following a strict business model. However, he does not always communicate them in the most objective way and in turn sounds like a bitter, ex-faculty member at times. His tone... ...more
By Anandh (Delhi, 07, India) · ★★★★☆ · January 20, 2011
As a full time on campus student at India's best Bschool, I have (luckily) not faced the horror stories outlined in the book about how USA universities are getting increasingly dumbed down. The author feels that because they are run like businesses with objective to please the customer('students'... ...more
By Qwerty (Suwanee, GA) · ★☆☆☆☆ · October 30, 2010
An uninspired jeremiad on the moral turpitude of college students. Discussions of serious issues such as sexual assault are marred by the use of questionable statistics and faulty logic, such as this one on page 97: "According to the definition of rape in most states, an intoxicated person cannot... ...more
By Wonderlandkat (Chicago, IL) · ★★☆☆☆ · July 09, 2013
This is sadly aimed at parents as a way to control their kids and nothing more. From someone at a state college, I expected more public policy and suggestions aimed at college students themselves rather than acting like they're dumb as oxen ...more
By Darin (Saint Louis, MO) · ★★★★★ · February 05, 2011
I wish every one of my junior and senior parents would read this. "Going to college" does not mean now what it used to mean, and it certainly may not mean the same thing to your child. Read this and take it seriously. ...more