Written by Megan Kursik, Coordinator of Michigan Communities for Financial Empowerment
Earlier this year 365 kindergarten students in the Lansing School District received a seed investment in their future. Each student was automatically enrolled in an education savings account by the City of Lansing.
Lansing SAVE (or Student Accounts Valuing Education) is the first universal, automatic education savings platform in Michigan, a joint initiative of the City of Lansing, the Lansing School District and Michigan State University Federal Credit Union. Moving forward, every entering class of kindergarteners at LSD will be enrolled in education savings accounts.
You can watch (and hear!) the excitement of the kindergarteners on launch day when they heard they were each getting an account to help them continue school beyond high school graduation. Lansing SAVE is designed to harness that excitement and give kids and their families a tangible way to save and plan for the costs of college and other postsecondary opportunities. Students, parents and other family and friends can deposit into students’ accounts any time at MSUFCU branch locations, online, by mail or direct deposit. What’s more, students will receive in-school financial education and parents will be linked to financial empowerment services in the community, such as free financial counseling and free tax assistance.
Opting kids into education savings accounts became a priority when research found students with dedicated education savings are four times more likely to attend and complete a post-secondary degree. This finding is especially important for low income students, as currently less than one in ten will complete a degree by age 26. In contrast, about a third of low income students with college savings complete a degree.
Lansing SAVE follows a national trend of local and state governments automatically investing in student’s post-secondary education through seeded savings accounts, starting in 2010 when the City of San Francisco launched Kindergarten to College. Since then several state and local governments have followed suit, including Nevada, Maine and Cuyahoga County in Ohio.
The opt-out vs. opt-in structure of this new trend of education savings programs is a critical component. Many opt-in programs have take-up rates of 10% or less. While people may have the best intentions, life gets in the way. Creating an automatic enrollment structure removes this barrier and ensures programs touch nearly every child.
CEDAM hopes Lansing SAVE is just the beginning of community-based education savings platforms in Michigan. Already, the Barry Community Foundation in Barry County has stepped up to lead a similar, county-wide education savings platform to launch in Fall 2015. CEDAM provides technical assistance to both Lansing and Barry County for these initiatives and is looking to help new communities create their own education savings platforms.
If you’re interested in bringing this model to your community, please contact Megan Kursik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Save the Date – August 5, 2015
CEDAM will host the second annual Michigan Financial Empowerment Summit on August 5, 2015, to focus on education savings platforms and feature Jose Cisneros, Treasurer of the City and County of San Francisco, as our keynote speaker. Registration will be available soon.