Last Wednesday at PS 148 in Jackson Heights, parents, students, elected officials and Department of Education (DOE) officials celebrated the third cohort of students to join NYC Kids RISE’s Save for College program.
Each student enrolled in the program automatically receives $100 in a scholarship account in their name. With this expansion, 95 percent of all kindergarteners, first graders and second graders in District 30 now have savings accounts.
“Having savings for college and career training is now part of what it means to go to an elementary school in District 30,” said Dr. Philip Composto, the district’s superintendent. “That gives a student a significant head start.”
PS 148 is one of 39 participating schools to enroll its students in the program. During the event last week, families activated their children’s scholarship accounts, while the students participated in an activity about career aspirations.
Principal Yolanda Harvey said for the past three years the school community has made planning and saving for college and career training a part of its culture.
In addition to teaching financial education classes starting in kindergarten, the school’s staff also hosts college and career-themed events for parents.
The Jackson Heights school now has more than 340 students with a scholarship account, totaling more than $46,000 in savings.
The event last Thursday was the culmination of the first-ever NYC Scholarship Month, during which school communities in District 30 hosted more than 60 events to learn about the Save for College program.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who spoke to parents and officials in both English and Spanish, said people often think they need to have a college degree and money to encourage their children to go to college, which he said is not true.
“What you have to have is the knowledge to be able to advocate for your children,” he said.
The chancellor said when students hear their teachers tell them they’re going to college, or that their school is creating a college-going culture, it’s “powerful.” But it’s even more powerful when they see a parent open a savings account for higher education.
“It is a parent taking the active step of saying, ‘here we go,’” Carranza said. “You set the pathway for students to go to college.
“We know when a student graduates from high school, it changes their life,” he added. “But we also know that when a student graduates from college, it not only changes their life, it changes the trajectory of the entire family.”
Carranza said he is a vocal supporter of the Save for College program, and that he would “pound the street” to raise money for students’ accounts.
Students can use the scholarship money, which will essentially be held in a lockbox until they graduate, for post-secondary expenses, such as tuition, books, room and board and computers.
DOE officials have previously noted that studies show that students who have between $1 and $499 in college savings are three times more likely to go to college. A college student with a savings account is five times more likely to graduate.
Additionally, New York City students in the top 10 percent income bracket are 20 times more likely to have a college savings account than students in the bottom 20 percent.
The chancellor noted that since the program pilot began, community organizations, businesses and other supports have collectively contributed close to $500,000 to these accounts.
Councilman Daniel Dromm said the communities he represents are made up of many immigrants, many of whom didn’t even dream of sending their kids to college because of the cost or their documentation status.
“But now in New York City, we are saying no matter what your immigration status is, you can open an account,” he said, “and you can begin to think about sending your children to college.”
The councilman added that last year, the state passed the DREAM Act, allowing undocumented students to apply for financial aid.
As the chair of the City Council’s Finance Committee, Dromm said he will fight for an additional $6 million to spread the program to three additional school districts.
“We are making the dream of being able to go to college real,” he said.