Kindergarten to College: Placing Higher Education within Reach
By José Cisneros, San Francisco Treasurer and Bob Annibale, Global Director of Citi Inclusive Finance October 19, 2017 04:00 PM
One in three San Francisco children are born into families with almost no savings. However, when families save as little as $500 for higher education, their children are three times more likely to go to college.
Six years ago, we set out to do the inconceivable: collaborate to develop a platform to support a program that would enable every family in the San Francisco public school system to put money away for their children’s education. To achieve this goal, Citi collaborated with the City and County of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Unified School District, to launch Kindergarten to College (K2C) -- the first publicly funded, universal children’s savings account program in the United States.
K2C enables every child in the San Francisco Public School District who enters kindergarten to save for college by providing them with a savings account maintained by the Treasurer’s office. The City and County of San Francisco starts each account with a $50 incentive, and families can earn additional incentives as they contribute to the child’s account.
In order to build a system that was truly sustainable, scalable and able to provide universal access, we considered many complex challenges, including how to develop a system inclusive of all children and navigating complex policy requirements and goals among different stakeholders.
Addressing these challenges required the development of a new product, as well as a new online platform to support it. Working together, Citi designed the Citi Start Saving platform. User experience was key -- the platform was designed to provide easy administration for City employees and easy access for families who may have limited computer or banking knowledge. The platform enables families and students to view their entire transaction history, including contributions, accounts and incentives.
But an effective product and online platform are only part of the solution. Success for a program of this scale, complexity and ambition demands a long-term commitment, including resources for outreach that strengthen awareness of the program, builds a college-going culture amongst our families, and encourages students and families to save and develop positive financial behaviors. Kindergarten to College is succeeding because a strong municipality and a large banking institution were willing to work together to design K2C, and develop a long-term program together with a committed school district.
By designing, implementing and continually improving the program together, we are enabling growth and economic progress for San Francisco families. Today, we see growing success -- over 26,000 children are participating in the program and $5 million has been raised through family savings, and incentives from the City and County of San Francisco and private funders.
To learn more about K2C, visit citi.com/progressmakers and follow #ProgressMakers on social media.