Institute for Economic and Racial Equity

IERE’s new report documents equity strategies in CSA programs

Post-secondary education—like trade school, college, or graduate school—can make a huge difference in children’s future earning potential and act as leverage for upward mobility. Yet, high college tuition costs can discourage families and dampen children’s education ambitions. By letting children know from a young age that they have assets in their name saved for college, Children’s Savings Account (CSAs) programs aim to help children see themselves as college-bound. But how can CSA programs be structured to ensure they include children from all backgrounds?

The day-to-day choices CSAs make in operations and outreach greatly impact how their programs are experienced by children and families. A new report from IERE, Seeds of Equity: Fostering Inclusivity in Children’s Savings Account Programs, shares insights from the staff of 14 CSA programs on what barriers to inclusion families may face in CSA programs and how they can be addressed, spanning topics like:

  • How might a CSA program respond when community members are suspicious of “free money”?
  • In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced in-person contact, how are programs reaching families affected by the digital divide?
  • How can messaging about the value of higher education be tailored to the specific values of different communities?

“Children's Savings Account programs are typically built on a vision of opening the doors to postsecondary education to families who have historically been excluded,” said report co-author Madeline Smith-Gibbs. “But what really stood out from our interviews with program managers is that equity within a CSA program often reflects equity issues in broader communities. CSAs aren’t going to solve those problems single-handedly, but our respondents were bursting with ideas for how programs can center equity in their work.”

This report is the third in a series published by IERE. Levers for Success offers a literature review of key features and outcomes for CSA programs and Cultivating CSAs traces CSA policy diffusion across New England.