Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs): Expanding Post-Secondary Options

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Written by Brian Rakovitis, manager of financial empowerment initiatives

Children’s Savings Accounts, or CSAs, have been well documented in their effect to increase college attendance and completion, as well as to reduce student loan debt among low- and moderate-income students as compared to their economic peers.

In a study published by JAMA, it was found that there is an immediate positive effect on social-emotional development that may be carried forward to improvements in long-term development, leading to better performance in schooling and other important life tasks.

Students that have resources for their future educational goals recognize a path forward and are therefore motivated to achieve their goals as compared to others that do not have assets. The Center for Social Development (CSD) found that having $1-$499 in a CSA meant that students were four times more likely to attend college than a low- to moderate-income child with no savings account.

Now, many CSA programs direct these behaviors into attending college, and rightfully so, however, some CSA programs have started to think about how they can provide students with additional post-secondary options to meet individual needs.

When we consider that students with CSAs are seeing a positive effect on social-emotional development, including demonstrating high-levels of self-control, goal setting and long-term planning, these skills can be useful in other post-secondary career advancement avenues as well.

CSA programs may want to consider allowing for withdrawals for expenses beyond college such as skilled trades programs, small-business development and career training. By building these options into the program, we don’t dilute the idea of college attainment; instead we offer students a variety of paths to their post-secondary achievement that might encourage more students to participate who might otherwise not have considered a CSA.

If you are considering developing a CSA program in your community, want to learn more about CSAs or are interested in applying for our CSA Replication RFP, please contact Brian Rakovitis at

For additional information, read Prosperity Now’s Investing in Dreams guide, a blueprint for designing CSA programs.