While a college education may not be the panacea that people once imagined, a clear trend still remains: graduates earn more money than their dropout — or, worse yet, completely college-less — peers. To join the middle class, chances are you’ll need a four-year degree.
Yet while 80 percent of high-income students take the college route directly after graduating high school, that figure drops to 50% for low-income students. College is expensive; my alma mater, UC Berkeley, places the cost-of-living estimate at around $26,000 per year for students living off-campus (and that’s a public school; private colleges can cost over twice as much). Without an educational nest egg — not to mention a parent or friend who’s adept at navigating endless financial aid documents — it’s easy to get turned off to the idea of post-secondary school.
That nest egg’s especially important, according to a recent research study from the New America Foundation. Of high school students who expect to attend college, over half of those without educational savings accounts — about 55% — end up never continuing their education. Hand those kids savings accounts, and they become a full 7 times more likely to attend college.
These figures aren’t impacted by variations in parental wealth; in other words, it’s the child’s savings account, not the parent’s, that makes the difference.
Hence our latest pioneering initiative with Mayor Gavin Newsom and the City of San Francisco, “Kindergarten to College” (or, as we lovingly call it at the EARN office, K2C). By 2013 (pending continued City funding), K2C will open educational savings accounts for every kindergartner enrolled in San Francisco’s public school district (a smaller scale pilot will launch this September). The City will seed each account with $50; low-income students will receive another $50, for a grand total of $100.
That’s where EARN comes in. We’ll match the first $100 that families deposit into the savings accounts themselves, thereby rewarding and perpetuating positive financial behavior.
Perhaps my boss (and EARN’s CEO), Ben Mangan, says it best: “What these matched savings accounts really do is begin to change people’s perceptions and expectations about higher education. From day one of Kindergarten, San Francisco parents can assure themselves that their children are on the path to college.”
Want to learn more about K2C? Read our latest press release, or check out this video of Gavin Newsom announcing the program to a group of kindergartners at Junipero Serra Elementary School!
Until next week,
Social Media Fellow