Two elementary schools in the Dallas region are testing a new college savings program called Dollars for College this school year. Tied to Texas’ mandated financial education curriculum, Dollars for College helps kindergarten students build financial skills by teaching them about college savings accounts.
OpportunityTexas (CPPP’s joint initiative with RAISE Texas) is carrying out Dollars for College in partnership with the Richardson Independent School District, First Convenience Bank a division of First National Bank Texas, the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and the Texas Council on Economic Education.
The goal of Dollars for College is to test the feasibility of this particular strategy to expand college savings in Texas, an approach that OpportunityTexas has been developing since 2010. To our knowledge, this is the first program in the country to connect students with college savings accounts through a mandated financial education curriculum.
The pilot will assess how interested kindergarten parents are in school-based college savings accounts, as well as their interest in the particular joint savings account offered through the program. It will also evaluate the most effective ways to build participation in college savings programs by testing different account incentives and marketing strategies. The Child and Family Research Partnership at the University of Texas at Austin is formally evaluating the program.
The program’s four financial education lessons, developed by the Texas Council on Economic Education, are aligned with kindergarten math and social studies curriculum and cover:
- Earning income
- What it means to save money for college
- How and why to open a savings account for college; and
- How to keep track of savings.
As students learn about saving and going to college, their parents have the opportunity to open a free savings account with First Convenience Bank. When a student opens an account, Dollars for College will deposit at least $25 into the account. Dollars for College offers an additional match of up to $50 during the pilot year to encourage parents to contribute to their account. Families will also have the opportunity to attend a free talk by a licensed financial advisor to learn about other long-term college savings options.
Dollars for College is designed to increase college savings and, ultimately, to increase college attendance. If successful, Dollars for College will become an important step towards expanding children’s savings accounts across the state, and consequently, guiding more Texans to build college savings and pursue higher education.
This post was jointly authored by OpportunityTexas Coordinator Laura Rosen and CPPP Communications Intern Mandy McClendon.