North Texas School District Implements College Savings Program
Wednesday, July 24, 2019
By guest blogger Educate Texas staff
This story originally appeared in the 2018 Educate Texas annual report and is reposted with permission.
“When children know they have money set aside from an early age designated for their college or higher education, they and their parents embrace graduation as an expectation and feel inspired to invest in this goal,” said Wende Burton, Senior Director of Community Philanthropy at Communities Foundation of Texas.
In 2018, with support from United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, Communities Foundation of Texas and Educate Texas, and additional funding from W.W. Caruth, Jr. Fund at CFT, The Meadows Foundation, Dallas Social Venture Partners and The Boone Family Foundation, Lancaster ISD (LISD) became the first district in North Texas to launch Dollars for College — a savings account program that provides low-income families with a safe, trusted, easy-to-access and low-cost opportunity to start building college savings for their children.
It was the 2012-2017 districtwide STEM initiative, funded by Texas Instruments Foundation and supported by Educate Texas, that helped position LISD as an ideal candidate for the Dollars for College program.
“Dollars for College is a powerful program because it builds on our community-wide educational attainment goals and brings something that once seemed unattainable for many families, into the realm of possibility,” said LISD Superintendent of Schools, Elijah Granger. “Starting a savings account — even a small one — is an important first step toward planning for a stronger academic future.”
Dollars for College scholarship accounts are opened for every participating LISD kindergarten student. Accounts are seeded with $50 and are linked to students’ individual 529 accounts* set up by parents. Families can make deposits at any time in their student’s individual account. Students will also have opportunities through the district to earn incentives and matching funds to grow their savings. When each child is ready to pursue higher education or training, they can access funds from these accounts to use toward those expenses. As of the end of the 2018-2019 school year, more than 85 percent of LISD families have agreed to enroll their students in Dollars for College, with over 240 opening parent accounts.
In 2018, LISD received the H-E-B Academic Excellence Award. The district decided to use the award to further the impact of the Dollars for College initiative and invest in the future of the 2018-2019 kindergarten class by directing the $50,000 award as additional seed money into every current kindergarten student’s Dollars for College account.
“If it wasn’t for this program, I don’t know how we could afford to send our youngest child to college,” said LISD parent, Cameisha Borner. “We are so thankful that Lancaster ISD and Dollars for College are partnering with parents by investing in our children’s future.”
“Starting college savings from an early age can help change the trajectory for these students, their families and the entire community, helping more students access and complete higher education in the future,” said Reo Pruiett, senior director, programs at Educate Texas. “We look forward to sharing in the success of the first LISD Dollars for College kindergarten class — and to seeing the program grow and expand in the years to come.”
“Children who grow up with college savings, even small amounts, are three times more likely to go to college and four times more likely to graduate. Our long-term goal is to help increase access to postsecondary education for the more than 70 percent economically disadvantaged students living and studying in Dallas County,” said Burton, “and the LISD Dollars for College initiative is a wonderful start!”
*529 account – a tax-advantaged savings plan sponsored by states, state agencies or educational institutions designed to encourage saving for future education costs.
(Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay)