Reclaiming Class offers essays written by women who changed their lives through the pathway of higher education. Collected, they offer a powerful testimony of the importance of higher learning, as well as a critique of the programs designed to alleviate poverty and educational disparity. The contributors explore the ideologies of welfare and American meritocracy that promise hope and autonomy on the one hand, while also perpetuating economic obstacles and indebtedness on the other. Divided into the three sections, Reclaiming Class assesses the psychological, familial, and economic intersections of poverty and the educational process. In the first section, women who left poverty through higher education recall their negotiating the paths of college life to show how their experiences reveal the hidden paradoxes of education. Section two presents first person narratives of students whose lives are shaped by their roles as poor mothers, guardian siblings, and daughters, as well as the ways that race interacts with their poverty. Chapters exploring financial aid and welfare policy, battery and abuse, and the social constructions of the poor woman finish the book. Offering a comprehensive picture of how poor women access all levels of private and public institutions to achieve against great odds, Reclaiming Class shows the workings of higher learning from the vantage point of those most subject to the vicissitudes of policy and reform agendas.