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"It Alleviates Some of the Stress and Concerns I Have about Starting College"

April is National Financial Capability Month, and the “I Have A Dream” Foundation" (IHDF) is teaming up with the 1:1 Fund to profile three of IHDF’s Children’s Savings Account (CSA) programs. We’ll be hearing how each of these programs uses the college savings account program to support their student’s college goals. This post originally appeared on CFED's Inclusive Economy blog.

How It Works

Only 9% of students from low-income families earn a bachelor’s degree, compared to 77% for their higher income peers. The “I Have A Dream” Foundation connects thousands of these low-income students — “Dreamers” — with educational opportunity by providing educational, social and emotional support “to and through” college. The program uses College Savings Accounts (CSAs) as a way of promoting a culture of high expectations, supporting academic goals, encouraging conversations about college and financial literacy from a young age, and helping to reduce financial barriers. IHDF has opened over 550 CSAs across four program sites in Boulder, Colorado; New York City; Des Moines, Iowa; and Portland, Oregon, and is actively expanding their CSA program.

The “I Have A Dream” Foundation’s CSA program is unique in that the accounts are coupled with a college roadmap. The roadmap is a personalized plan that guides each student through the academic and non-academic skills and tasks that they need to learn and accomplish to be college ready. The roadmap is built around a checklist of the most important milestones on the path to college admission and completion, and students earn deposits into their College Savings Account for completing milestones along the path led with a college roadmap.

“I Have A Dream” Foundation’s New York Affiliate Spotlight

This week, we spoke with Treston Lambert, the Program Director of New York Metro’s Chelsea II Program in New York City.

The Chelsea II Program has opened CSAs for 10th, 11th and 12th grade Dreamers. Dreamers earn deposits into their accounts by achieving critical milestones on the path “to and through” college: for example, 10th graders receive deposits into their accounts for participating in community service, applying for summer internships, visiting colleges and earning good grades. In addition, 11th graders can add to their accounts by attending SAT prep classes, and 12th graders have added incentives for taking the SAT, applying for college and scholarships, submitting their FAFSA and attending workshops. These milestones reward college preparedness through college savings, which are shown to increase graduation rates. In fact,low-income students with just $500 or less in college savings are three times more likely to enroll in college and four times more likely to graduate.

Treston says that while younger students may not yet fully grasp how college savings will impact them, high school-age Dreamers — particularly seniors — are starting to see the value of their CSAs in a more tangible way as they gain perspective on the financial realities of college. According to Treston, “the CSA account provides an opportunity for the Dreamers to learn the importance of a savings account and financial planning. The Dreamers can rest easy knowing that they are accruing money through their academic achievements and community service activities that can be used toward college supplies, textbooks and even laptop computers. This fund will allow the Dreamers to practice budgetary spending on a small scale, giving them useful skills that they can implement in the future.”

We heard from three high school Dreamers on how CSAs are impacting them as college approaches.

We look forward to hearing more from these students and others on how their CSAs have helped support them through college in the coming years! Keep your eyes peeled later this month for profiles from “I Have A Dream” Foundation’s CSA programs in Boulder, Colorado and Des Moines, Iowa.

Kaitlin Archambault is the Marketing & Communications Manager at the “I Have A Dream” Foundation.