A year after California launched a program that created college savings accounts to address educational inequity, only 6% of the accounts are owned. Now state officials are ramping up efforts to get students and families registered.
A state-backed program to help ease the stress of college expenses for parents, CalKIDS automatically enrolls qualified students — those from low-income backgrounds and newborns after July 1, 2022 — for higher education investment plans.
This means that the state deposits $175 dollars or more into a savings account that will accumulate money over time. However, parents must register an account to access the funds, which are also available for a variety of post-secondary education including college, trade schools and career training.
“CalKIDS is the antidote to poverty and equity,” emphasized California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, who helps oversee the program.
The program began with a seed amount of $2 billion from the state with the goal of addressing inequitable access to higher education. The efforts are under the ScholarShare Investment Board, of which Ma is the chair.
Of the nearly 400,00 eligible newborns, only 4% have registered accounts on the CalKIDS website. And almost 6% of those from low-income backgrounds own their accounts.
In Sacramento County, only 5% of eligible families have registered, and $72 million in dedicated funds are unused.
This past Wednesday, Rosa Parks K-8 School in South Sacramento was the first stop in Ma’s renewed commitment to statewide outreach. He urged the families to claim the $1.8 billion that has not been touched.
“We are here at this school because there are 649 students who qualify for $500 to $1,500 in their account, and only 24 have registered,” he said. You just need to register and the money will start building within 18 years, added Ma.
To ensure that parents and children are informed about the program, Rosa Parks School worked with Ma, Chief Deputy Superintendent of the California Department of Education Mary Nicely, California Assemblymember Stephanie Nguyen, along with members of the Sacramento City Unified School Board and others yet.
At the CalKIDS event, the Diploma Dog – the CalKIDS mascot – got second-graders excited about college. Sitting with them is 7-year-old Devan Cruz, who has dreams of becoming an astronomer.
“I want to discover the different planets and what they have in common,” he said.
His father, Adan Cruz, took every step to make Devan’s dreams come true, including registering for Devan’s CalKIDS account at the event.
“I want him to get all the education possible,” she said. “So any chance there is to get him involved in different programs, I want to do.”
Good, of the California Department of Education, said he will incorporate the program into all of his family involvement efforts.
“I’m just excited that you have dreams. And I’m excited that you want to follow those dreams,” Nicely told the Rosa Parks School graders. “And we’re here to tell you that CalKIDS can help you follow those dreams.”
Parents interested in registering to have their child’s account can go to calkids.org.
Srishti Prabha is a Report For America corps member and Education Reporter in collaboration with The Sacramento Observer and CapRadio. Their focus is K-12 education in Black communities.