Low-income Californians are not taking advantage of free college savings accounts for children

Despite the buzz surrounding its initiation in August 2022, As per a declaration from CalKIDS on March 6, only 300,000 students and families, a mere portion of the 3.6 million eligible individuals in the state, have avai…

This equates to approximately 8.3% of eligible students statewide, with similar scarce percentages locally, as noted by Devon Gray, president of the advocacy orga…

CalKIDS aims to assist families in saving for college or post-high school career training by establishing a savings account and depositing between $500 and $1,50…

Despite appreciating the state’s almost $2 billion investment in the program, Gray stresses the critical importance of successful CalKIDS execution.

While endorsed by the governor, the program lacks ample staff to consistently raise awareness throughout the vast, diverse state, as per Joe DeAnda, communications director o…

Thus, many families statewide are bewildered, uninformed, or oblivious to CalKIDS and stumble upon challenges even after being informed about the accounts, EPIC leaders s…

The state’s low proportion of claimed accounts might suggest poor program adoption, yet CalKIDS attributes its continual outreach and cooperation for the hundreds of …

Fresno Unified, one of the state’s biggest school districts, aspires to reach its own milestone.

On March 6, the school board voted to devise a districtwide campaign to heighten awareness about the available CalKIDS accounts for most of its students—a step other dis…

While discussing the board, Levine proposed a resolution obliging the district to make a systemwide commitment to enhance student awareness and access to the accoun…

This proposal comes in the wake of studies demonstrating that having just $500 in a college savings account makes a student three times more likely to enroll in col…

Program provides $500 to eligible low-income students

Additionally, $500 is deposited for students identified as foster youth, and another $500 for students categorized as homeless.

Newborns born in California after June 2023, irrespective of their parents’ income, receive $100. Those born in the state between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, ini…

State outreach doesn’t address all challenges

At the program’s inception, Governor Newsom depicted the initiative as California “telling our students that we believe they’re college material.”

“Not only do we believe it,” Newsom said at the time, “we’ll invest in them directly.”

Since then, Newsom and his office have Altogether, millions of dollars have been earmarked to ensure families capitalize on the program.

As per the

Informing newborn parents looks slightly different

The one-time mailers are notification letters to inform students about the CalKIDS account and how to access it. From November 2022 to June 2023, over 3.3 million students rec…

Every month, the program dispatches notification letters to newborn parents and a fraction of over 536,000 eligible infants have claimed accounts by Dec. 31, as p…

In addition to the mailers, the program proffers emails to more than 316,000 parents to alert them about their newborn’s CalKIDS account.

CalKIDS doesn’t have access to student or parent email addresses from the education department.

Gray, of EPIC, indicated that many in low-income communities dismiss the mailers due to skepticism about communication credibility even with official letterhead.

Widespread confusion

Pockets of confusion reign in places like San Francisco and Oakland due to the presence of local college savings account programs.

Of the over 33,000 eligible students…

Even when families are aware, accessing the account has proven cumbersome, per Jasmine Dellafosse, EPIC’s director of organizing and community engagement.

Though the initial seed deposits are automatic, families must claim the accounts Board member Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas, at the March 6 meeting, highlighted the challenge she faced in retrieving the SSID number for her child.

For a board member …

According to Rosas, the district has a chance to facilitate families’ participation in the program and collaborate with the state to simplify the process.

Fresno Unified leads state in effort to raise awareness

Going Deeper

EPIC leaders advocate for other districts to commit to enhancing awareness and access to the CalKIDS accounts systemwide.

“We can’t just stop at Fresno,” Dellafosse remarked.

Various strategies can address the challenges impeding CalKIDS account access including:

  • Dispensing CalKIDS welcome kits with SSID numbers.
  • Adapting informational materials to a third-grade reading level for wider family comprehension.
  • Educating families via local leaders.
  • Promoting multilingual outreach at the state level.
  • Enhancing dialogue between districts and the state.

“Knowing the money is available is vital,” he emphasized.

Per the resolution, aiming to boost student account access from under 7% to at least 25%, underscores the sense for targeted district outreach, education, and assistance.

By June, Fresno Unified will devise a CalKIDS engagement plan aiming to strategize account registration and data collection for all eligible students, setting objectives to…

Levine posited that the district’s plan could serve as a blueprint for engaging and educating families about the CalKIDS program across the state.

Notably, the district’s commitment has the potential to heighten funding accessibility, enhance student prospects of attending and graduating from college, and refine current statics showing that less than 25% of Fresno County residents above 25 hold a bachelor’s degree.

“Having hailed from a very disadvantaged family, I recognize the profound impact a few dollars in a savings account can have,” board member Veva Islas reflected.

“Irrespective of the sum, as long as there’s contemplation about college enrollment and some planning, there appears to be a strong relationship with that outcome.”

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