The wealth gap: How education fails to measure economic disadvantage

When Ajuah Helton was a college student, her financial aid package came up a few thousand dollars short. What happened next threw her off course.

Her mom took out a high-interest federal loan that she ultimately couldn’t repay. The next year, her mom wanted to avoid more loans, but didn’t have other funds to tap into. Helton, out of options, left school for a semester to work to make up the difference.

“That’s with a mom who was fully employed, college-educated, but did not come from anything that allowed her to say, ‘Oh $5,000? Let me just go to my bank account or my stock market and pull out a little bit of cash,’” Helton says.

Helton, who is Black, did graduate. She is now the national director of KIPP Through College, a program designed to help students like herself earn college diplomas. But every day, she sees her own

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