Photo credit: Syda Productions
New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced on May 4, 2022, investments in the future of New York City children, giving 97 percent of kindergartners across the city access to a New York City Scholarship Account to save for college and career training in the future. Families can now activate their kindergarteners’ NYC Scholarship Accounts from the Save for College Program. This year, a total of $6.5 million has been invested in the 65,300 NYC Scholarship Accounts for students participating in the NYC Kids RISE Save for College Program, which provides families, schools, and communities with a way to work together to invest in children’s futures — regardless of their family’s income or immigration status.
“We need tangible and practical solutions to reduce the racial wealth gap, even more now as we emerge from the pandemic,” said Mayor Adams. “The Save for College Program can reduce the amount that students and families have to borrow in student loans, combatting the student debt crisis that has disproportionately impacted students of color. I am proud to announce the activation of thousands of scholarship accounts, bringing New York City students one step closer to financial assets.”
Starting this school year, and every year going forward, kindergarten students enrolled in a New York City public school — including participating charter schools — automatically receive a scholarship account invested in a NY 529 Direct Plan, with an initial $100 from NYC Kids RISE, unless their families choose not to participate. This signifies an investment in the financial and social resiliency of families and neighborhoods, and it provides a new way to drive financial assets towards communities that have been systematically excluded from wealth-building opportunities. This milestone is the result of a broad effort from local leaders, partners, schools, businesses, and parents in Queens who helped create a universal, community-driven wealth-building platform that is embedded in homes, schools, and neighborhoods.
Through the program, families can receive up to $200 in additional rewards for their child’s scholarship account by taking foundational steps — such as opening and connecting a separate college and career savings account that they own for their child — and starting to save in the ways and amounts that make sense for them. Communities, businesses, anchor institutions, and other systems can contribute to groups of these NYC Scholarship Accounts as both a targeted and universal platform for community-driven asset-building in every neighborhood. By combining seed scholarships, family savings, community investments, and funding streams from every level, the Save for College Program can build significant assets for public school students and communities.
The Save for College Program equips elementary schools with financial education lessons in the classroom and new college-and-career and asset-building activities for entire families. Families can participate in financial empowerment and college/career-going activities and workshops and are connected to one-on-one counseling at the city’s Financial Empowerment Centers. Community Based Organizations can integrate the Save for College Program into their programming to increase access for their families and enhance their missions, including taking elementary school students and their families on college visits and incorporating the platform into workforce development and after school programs.
In May, schools across the city will kick off the first ever citywide NYC Scholarship Month, a time when school communities come together to celebrate the collective efforts to support college and career readiness and the first opportunity families have to activate and view their child’s new NYC Scholarship Accounts. As part of these celebrations, school communities across the city will be hosting events and activities to support families in completing this critical first step.
The Save for College Program is a public-private-community partnership designed to make college and career training more accessible and achievable for public school students, regardless of their income or immigration status. Through a diverse network of partners, the universal community-driven wealth-building platform seeks to ensure that every NYC public school kindergartener graduates high school with a financial asset for college and career training, and ensure that students, families, schools, and communities have increased college-and career-going expectations for every child. Research suggests that children with a college savings account of just $1 to $500 are three times more likely to go to college and more than four times more likely to graduate.
Under Founding Board Chair of NYC Kids Rise and current Council Member Julie Menin and the leadership of Debra-Ellen Glickstein, then executive director of the Office of Financial Empowerment, the city began the effort in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education (DOE) and the Gray Foundation to create universal college and career accounts for every kindergartener in city public schools.
In the fall of 2017, the Save for College Program launched as a pilot in Queens School District 30 through a partnership between NYC Kids RISE, the NYC Department of Education, and the city of New York; and founding support from the Gray Foundation. Over the last five years, more than 13,500 first, second, third, and fourth graders across the 39 schools that participated in the pilot have accumulated over $7 million in financial assets. Based on the success of the pilot phase, the citywide expansion of the Save for College Program was included in the Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan by the city’s Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity.