Children’s Savings Accounts

For more than 20 years, we have been involved in the field of asset-building for low- and medium-income families. As part of our Education grantmaking plan, we are focusing more specifically on the potential of CSAs as both a “builder of the college-going identity” and as a practical solution for helping young people undertake and complete their certification requirements or degrees at two- and four-year colleges and universities.

Benita Melton
Benita Melton.

The escalating cost of post-secondary education and training lends a special urgency to our work. CSA initiatives are building momentum in states and municipalities (see map below) where governors and mayors are concerned with building a workforce for the future — one that will attract employers and help stabilize communities. Through our grantmaking, the Foundation hopes to build upon this momentum by determining what makes CSAs work, how the design of these initiatives can be improved and how information on best practices can be shared to encourage more participation in these savings programs.

Please take a few minutes to scan this page and learn more about our grantmaking and our partners in this important work.

Children's Savings Account (CSA) programs and initiatives in the U.S.
Children's Savings Account (CSA) programs and initiatives in the U.S. Source: Prosperity Now, 2020

Q&A With Benita Melton

Inside Philanthropy: At the Mott Foundation, A Persistent Evangelist for Children’s Savings Accounts

Planting the seed of desire to go to college early in a child’s life with a savings account produces lasting positive effects. This idea has galvanized the asset building movement in recent years.

As Robert Friedman, the godfather of the asset building movement, told us:

Kids with a college savings account in their own name are three times more likely to attend and four times more likely to finish college than kids without accounts, even with as little as $500 in the account. Basically, if you expect that you are going to go to college, you’ll go to college. You find a way.

Few people have been more intent on realizing the promise of this blockbuster idea than Benita Melton. And few foundations have stuck with children’s savings accounts for as long as the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which has promoted these accounts as an essential tool in the effort to reduce poverty and bring more marginalized young people into the middle class.

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A Foot in the Door tells the story of Kindergarten to College, the first universal children’s savings account program in the United States. Launched by the City and County of San Francisco, the program automatically provides a college savings account to children when they start kindergarten.

Wabash County Promise illustrates how one Indiana community has invested in its future by encouraging local families to create CollegeChoice529 savings accounts when they register their children for school. Students with 529 accounts in grades K-3 increased from 6% to more than 72% during the first year of the program.

View full length version of this video.

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