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The Wharton community is helping close the wealth gap, one free course at a time.

Approximately four years ago, Wharton professor Keith Weigelt started Building Bridges to Wealth, a program that helps combat the racial wealth gap in West Philadelphia by providing free financial literacy courses. The program is offered to both adults and students from as young as middle school age to those in high school.

“Everyone talks about it, but no one does anything,” Weigelt said of the wealth gap, which has been growing exponentially since the 1980s.

Weigelt explained the importance of beginning to invest and gain financial knowledge at a young age. “Poor people need interest,” he said. But many people on the lower end of the wealth spectrum put 95 percent of their money in banks, not generating any interest in the process.

Four years since its start, the program’s success has helped it spread across the state. Penn State University has expressed interest in getting involved with the initiative, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is looking to expand Building Bridges to Wealth into a statewide program.

Building Bridges to Wealth spreads the word about its classes and programming through outreach to community churches, schools and former contacts. According to Weigelt, the program has encountered a lack of engagement in some nearby schools. But of those that have participated, there has been great success.

Associate director of the program Stacy Franks said that having middle and high school students come to campus not only teaches the students about finances and investing, but can also work to inspire them to attend college.

“This is also a way for undergraduates to give back,” Franks said, explaining the reasons for undergraduates to get involved.

This Saturday, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Steinberg-Dietrich Hall, there will be a course covering everything one needs to know about finances and the economy. It is open for people who have any questions or concerns about their financial situation. The class is completely free and anyone can walk in.

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