POLICY BRIEF: Leveraging Free College and Children’s Savings Accounts For A 21st Century Wealth Building Agenda

POLICY BRIEF: Leveraging Free College and Children’s Savings Accounts For A 21st Century Wealth Building Agenda

This policy brief examines another way of supporting free college through leveraging and expanding current small-dollar Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs) into a robust asset building program for the country and a way for low-income students to cover the full cost of college.

While College Promise programs typically cover the cost of tuition and fees, they often fail to consider the total cost of attendance students must bear. A few cutting-edge Promise programs, such as the Oakland Promise, are addressing this important shortcoming by incorporating, what we will call, small-dollar Children’s Savings Accounts into their design. Small-dollar CSAs are incentivized savings or investment accounts established for children for the purpose of helping to finance post-secondary education. These small-dollar accounts begin with initial deposits between $5 and $1,000, and they are spreading across America. As such, they provide a tangible asset base and give students and parents experience using mainstream financial institutions.

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Author: Professor William Elliott, Professor of Social Work, Director of Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Social Science, University of Michigan

Professor William Elliott is a leading researcher in the fields of college savings accounts, college debt, and wealth inequality. Shaped by his personal roots in poverty, in a small steel mill city in Pennsylvania, he challenges individual beliefs and cultural values that surround funding for college, student debt, inequality, systemic patterns of poverty, and educational justice.

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