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The College Trap That Keeps People Poor

FORT WORTH — Chelsey Stone had already escaped so many of the traps that keep poor children in poverty for life. She recalls begging neighbors for dinner when her mother sold their food stamps for drug money. She slept on the trampoline outside when the heroin showed up and her mom locked the door and the binges began. When she rebelled as a teenager, it was with poster board: She plastered her house with bright signs warning, “Do Not Throw Needles Away Here.”

Her teachers saw that spark. You can earn a college scholarship, they said. Land a good job, and don’t depend on the government or anyone else. She knew they were right. She was almost there.

Then she got pregnant. Then she was 17, working two jobs to feed herself and her daughter, Kiara. She started college and tried to carry a full load of classes, and it was too much. She dropped out. And there went her chance at the middle class, racing away across the plains.