Golden Gate [X]press
By: Chase S. Kmec
October 12, 2010
Kindergartners in San Francisco received a unique gift from Mayor Gavin Newsom, city supervisors and several philanthropic organizations with the launch of Kindergarten to College Oct. 5 at Sanchez Elementary School.
With help from San Francisco and various city and national programs, the plan will open a savings account for families in their child's name upon beginning kindergarten.
"There's no better long-term investment we can make as a city than helping our kids go to college," Newsom said. "Kindergarten to College will provide working families with the financial tools to turn a college education for their child from a distant dream to a practical reality."
Under financing from San Francisco and Citibank, which will create the savings accounts, every child in a kindergarten class in San Francisco public schools will receive an account and $50 from the city.
Children in lower-income families are eligible for an additional $50.
San Francisco has set aside $250,000 to fund the program, but its first year will only cover 25 percent of the roughly 5,000 kindergartners citywide, including those at Sanchez.
Sanchez is one of 18 public schools in San Francisco that will benefit from the plan this school year.
All 75 elementary schools are expected to join the program by the 2012-2013 school year.
The majority of schools participating this year are in primarily low-income neighborhoods and include Excelsior's Guadalupe Elementary and Bayview's Malcolm X Elementary.
"The only way districts are successful is when it is backed fully from the city. Every single course in our district will prepare these students for college," said Carlos Garcia superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, referring to the recently mandated A-G graduation requirements for high school students in the district. "This is like frosting on the cake."
K2C, first announced by Newsom in September 2009, is the first program of its kind in the U.S. It is modeled after United Kingdom's Child Trust Fund which provides a £250 ($400) payment to every child born after Sept. 1, 2002 to fund their university education.
"We know that it's a challenge to build a savings account," said Bob Annibale, global director of Citi Community Development. "We are committed to working with the city of San Francisco to put in place a program that will help students in San Francisco achieve a college degree."
Annibale referenced a 10-year study by the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis that found children with savings accounts were seven times more likely to attend college than those who didn't save.
"In California, only 10 percent of Latinos and 22 percent of blacks have a college degree. We need to make it clear to these kids that in the land of opportunity, opportunity is available," Supervisor David Campos said.
Kindergartners at Sanchez Elementary, a school with a predominantly Hispanic student body, reflect a key point made in a speech made by San Francisco City Treasurer Jose Cisneros.
"One in two children born to African American and Latino families in San Francisco are born into a family with no savings or assets of any kind," Cisneros said. "Additionally, only one-tenth of children in low-income families will graduate college. With this program, even $5 to $10 a month will make a big difference by the time a child graduates high school."
Other participating programs include the Corporation for Enterprise Development, the San Francisco Foundation and EARN, a San Francisco-based non-profit which helps low-income families achieve financial prosperity.
"We have seen the power of incentive and with the right tools and incentives, low-income families can and do save," said EARN President and CEO Ben Mangan.
EARN announced it will match savings made by families participating in the program up to $100. The San Francisco Foundation said it would also match deposits.
Julissa Cruz, whose daughter Ingrid Lopez is a kindergartner at Sanchez, was excited to hear the news.
"It is wonderful to be thinking ahead," said Cruz through an interpreter. "Thank you for creating this program."
It is not yet known whether families who save money will be able to offset the relatively high cost of college.
The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics revealed that two-thirds of all university undergraduates in the 2007-2008 term received some form of financial aid.
However, those students may choose to attend junior college or a publicly assisted university like SF State, where, according to the school website, about half of the undergraduate student body requires financial aid, a figure that is lower than the national average.
"This is a huge experiment and it's not going to be easy but the city has figured a way to make it easy," said CFED founder Robert Friedman. "San Francisco will be first, but not the last to encourage financial empowerment."