Growing the Children’s Savings Movement: A Look Back at 2014 and a Sneak Peek at 2015

January 26, 2015
By Shira Markoff, CFED

This article originally appeared in CFED's January 2015 newsletter.

The energy and momentum of the children’s savings movement continues to build! The last year saw huge developments in the field—with new or expanded statewide programs, including:
  • Connecticut launched the Baby Scholars program, which deposits $100 into a 529 college savings account for all Connecticut children whose parents open an account within the child’s first year.
  • The Harold Alfond College Challenge, which provides every baby born in Maine with $500 in a 529 account, switched from an opt-in to an opt-out enrollment process, making uptake easier and scalability more likely.
  • Nevada’s College Kick Start program expanded statewide in 2014 to provide an initial deposit of $50 into a 529 account for every public school kindergartener in the state.
  • Rhode Island’s CollegeBound baby program replaced a cumbersome enrollment process with one in which parents need only check a box on their child’s birth certificate form to receive a $100 initial deposit in a 529 college savings account.
CFED has been at the forefront of this growing field: connecting stakeholders, delivering technical assistance on Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program design, and providing timely policy briefs, analyses of the state of the field and strategic thinking on the path to scale. In 2014, we hosted the Children’s Savings Conference: From Aspirations to Achievement, which brought the children’s savings field together for the first time in five years and produced valuable insights about addressing the barriers to expanding CSAs. We also published a follow-up from the conference, From Aspirations to Achievement: Growing the Children's Savings Movement, which outlined key takeaways from conference sessions and presented a vision for advancing the field based on these insights.

CFED’s 1:1 Fund also provides pivotal fundraising support to CSA programs, such as San Francisco’s Kindergarten to College and Children’s Aid Society’s College Savers Program. The 1:1 Fund had its best year yet in 2014, raising over $220,000 from more than 250 donors for savings matches with partner programs. The 1:1 Fund’s newest partner (and NCAN member), FUEL Education, raised $11,436 from their Giving Tuesday campaign alone.

We’re looking forward to more growth in 2015. For example, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones plans to start a CSA program serving all 3,500 kindergartners in St. Louis Public Schools in 2015. (In a related development, NCAN member Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis launched a 529 college savings plan, Future Forward, for 120 middle school students.) Meanwhile, conversations and planning for new CSA programs continue in many other cities and states across the country.

To facilitate the further blossoming of the field in 2015, CFED has created an online directory of existing and planned children's savings initiatives around the country. This directory will help to build connections between stakeholders and facilitate the sharing of best practices and resources across programs. Later in the year, we will be releasing a completely updated, revamped CSA design guide to assist organizations in developing new CSA programs.

The wind is clearly at the back of this growing movement, and we expect to report at the end of 2015 that we have collectively moved even closer to the ultimate goal of a CSA for every child in America. We look forward to working with you in achieving this goal.

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