The first cohort of children goes to college

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Although more and more students feel excluded from studying, there are efforts to improve access to higher education that appear to be working.

In 2011, San Francisco made headlines when it became the first city in the country to open a college savings account with $50 for every child entering kindergarten in the public school system.

Now these students are about to enter college.

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Yadira Saavedra, 17, is one of more than 600 San Francisco students who will begin college with financial support from the Kindergarten to College (K2C) savings program.

Her parents saved $2,200 in a universal child savings account, which helped change her attitude toward college, she said.

“My family always pushed me to go to college, but I felt bad,” Saavedra added. “I didn’t really know how much college cost; I just knew it was a lot of money.”

This fall, she will be a freshman at the University of California, Davis. She wants to study archeology or sociology.

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To pay the bill, Saavedra will rely on a combination of resources, including savings and need-based assistance, she said. “It gives me hope that I can go to college, and I’m very proud of that.”

“These accounts have made a difference,” said San Francisco Treasurer Jose Cisneros.

College affordability is an ongoing problem.

Tuition and fees have more than doubled in 20 years, averaging $10,940 at four-year in-state public colleges in the 2022-2023 academic year. At four-year private colleges, it now costs $39,400 per year, according to the university College Boardwho pursues Trends in college prices and student aid.

When other expenses are included, the total can be more than $70,000 per year for students at some private colleges or even for foreign students attending four-year public schools.

That, combined with rising student debt levels, is enough to deter many high school students from considering college.

And yet, even when families have less than $500 saved, low- to middle-income children are three times more likely to enroll in college and more than four times more likely to complete college Children without a savings account a study from the Center for Social Development at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Just engaging with this account raises awareness and ambition,” Cisneros said.

Since the program began, balances have grown to $15 million, he added. “Every dollar represents conversations that took place in households.”

“This isn’t just about providing a savings account,” said Brandee McHale, global head of community investment and development at Citi, who helped implement the program. “This is truly a tool to support a college mentality.”

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Additionally, the success of the program has led to the introduction of similar savings initiatives across the country. According to recent data, there are now more than 120 universal child savings account programs in 39 states.

New York City, Boston and Los Angeles all have their own programs that provide additional funding and rewards for parents who continue to build their credit.

San Francisco’s model also helped encourage California to take off CalKIDSthe nation’s largest child savings account program, in 2022.

The statewide initiative provided $1.9 billion to fund $500 college savings accounts for 3.7 million low-income California public school students in first through twelfth grade. Students living in foster care or homeless received an additional $500.

As with most other plans, savings can be rolled over into a 529 college savings account – a tax-advantaged way to save for college or other schooling and related expenses.

Saavedra, a first-generation college student, said she is excited that her younger siblings can also participate.

“They’ll say, ‘My sister went to college.’ “It will be a lot easier to get to,” she said.

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