Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs)

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What Are Children’s Savings Accounts?  

Q&A with Anne Yeoman, AFN's CSA Project Manager

What is a CSA?

Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs) most often refers to a savings account opened for the benefit of a very young child—at birth or by kindergarten age—into which a third party, such as a city, a nonprofit, a foundation, a parent, or others can deposit funds that are to be disbursed for postsecondary education expenses.

Often the third party deposits “seed” funds to start the account and may provide additional “match” when the child or family meets benchmarks over time, such as regular deposits or school attendance.   Click here to review a CSA Primer from AFN

What are the goals of a CSA?

CSAs have two general goals:

  1. To build savings for the child, thus creating expectations for postsecondary education; and
  2. To encourage the family to develop savings habits. 

What savings vehicle is used in a CSA?

The type of account will vary. Many are linked to College 529 investments. Some use savings products developed especially for the CSA program, and some use basic savings account options with a custodian and the child as beneficiary.

Who actually holds the account?

Who holds the account--the third party or even the child alone--varies by project design. Usually such accounts are custodial, with the third party as the custodian and requiring the third party’s signature for disbursement. In some cases there may be an account opened by the third party that holds subaccounts for each participating child. The omnibus account may be a College 529 investment, or an omnibus account held by a traditional financial institution. Sometimes, there is a parallel account opened by the parent on behalf of the child.

At what age are CSAs opened?

Most CSAs open accounts for very young children, at birth through kindergarten; but some start accounts for older children and youth, for example for fourth-graders or middle-school students.  

How are CSA savings spent?

The vast majority of CSAs limit use of the balances to costs of postsecondary education. A few, not linked to 529 accounts, allow other uses, including pre-college expenditures for education related purposes such as tutoring or computers. Postsecondary disbursement is directly to the educational institution, not to the child or parent.

Could you share some basic research I can cite as to CSA effectiveness?

There is a constant stream of new reporting and research on how CSAs affect children and their families, the development of college-going identity and financial plans. Here are a few of the foundational reports.  The Research section of this page (scroll down to review) summarizes new work on a regular basis. 


CSA Events

AFN presents: Meet in the Middle to Magnify Success: Early Distribution Scholarships and CSAs

FRIDAY, October 21, 2016 | 2:00pm-3:00pm ET

Research on strategies to increase college enrollment and completion, especially for low- to moderate-income students, is showing the effects of earlier awareness and engagement with scholarship opportunities. At the same time, CSAs are showing measurable effects on development of essential social and emotional skills for very young children, as well as on academic success. Effects are greater for lower-income children. 

Benita Melton, Education Program Director of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, moderated presentations by Martha Kanter, Executive Director of the College Promise Campaign and former U.S. Under Secretary of Education, and Patty Grant, Executive Director, Community Foundation of Wabash County.  The panelists offered an in-depth discussion of how joining earlier distribution of scholarships with CSAs can strengthen each strategy by building on their strengths while addressing inherent challenges of each alone.



Texas Talks More About CSAs and Education

On August 25, 2016, Philanthropy Southwest and AFN’s North Texas Regional Chapter hosted The Education/Assets Connection. The discussion for funders took place at the Lena Pope Amon Carter Center in Fort Worth.

Alfreda Norman, Senior Vice President for Communications and Public Outreach, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas led an informational interview with Anthony Poore, Deputy Director of Regional and Community Outreach, Boston Federal Reserve. Rose Bradshaw, Executive Vice President, North Texas Community Foundation, led a discussion with Rob Podlogar, National Director, the Siemer Institute for Family Stability.  For background materials, click here.


CSAs in the News

Boston Schools CSAs in Action

Boston Public Schools long-planned CSA project is under way. Five pilot schools and the various financial institutions involved began working with parents to open savings accounts this fall. The Eos Foundation footed the bill for much of the planning, loaning consultants and supporting key staff for planning and implementation, as well as helping out with ongoing operations and incentive costs. Kick off events at individual schools vary from reading books about financial topics to a musical review by Miss Money and the Coins.  For more information, go to


The Big Apple Gets a Big New CSA

Starting next fall, thousands of New York City kindergartners will start savings accounts in a three­-year pilot program intended to increase the number of low-­income children who go on to college. Funding comes from a $10 million donation by Jon Gray, the global head of real estate at the investment firm Blackstone Group, and his wife, Mindy.

The first accounts will first serve children in public and charter schools in one of 32 community school districts. Managing the project is a new nonprofit, NYC Kids Rise, who board includes mayoral and school district leadership.

The pilot will include families of about 3,500 children. One goal is to introduce low-­income families to the 529 accounts, where deposits grow tax-­free if used for higher education. The initial $100 contributions will be deposited into an omnibus 529 account, so that undocumented immigrants, who do not have the Social Security or individual taxpayer identification numbers needed to set up individual accounts, can participate. If the family meets certain benchmarks over four year, such as saving small amounts of their own money, they will be eligible for another $200. At the same time, families will also be encouraged to start their own individual 529 accounts for saving.  The city will use its financial empowerment centers to educate parents and encourage them to open the parallel accounts for their children. Other goals are to link households to mainstream banking services and increasing financial literacy and personal saving.


AEDI Convening on the State of CSAs

AEDI and the Center for Social Development at Washington University co-hosted a Children’s Savings Account Symposium in Lawrence, KA, on November 9-11, 2016. The event, funded by the Kauffman Foundation, Lumina Foundation, 1:1 Fund, and Citi Community Development, convened more than 100 leading CSA researchers and practitioners, as well as policymakers, advocates, and experts in the fields of economic mobility, student debt, financial inclusion, and racial inequality. Panels analyzed the current landscape of education financing, revealing disparate returns on degree for students with different starting points, and discussed opportunities to use CSAs to bring millions of American households into the financial mainstream. Participants heard about new developments at the intersection of Promise programs for graduating students and CSAs. The research agenda included insights from experienced CSA programs, such as San Francisco’s K2C, Promise Indiana, and SEED for Oklahoma Kids, as well as new approaches to CSA research and the best interim measures of progress. One hit from the conference is an infographic that collects the most often cited and most influential CSA findings onto a single page. Links to the infographic and other conference materials are found in the December AEDI newsletter:  


Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition CSA News

Christy Finsel, Executive Director, Oklahoma Native Asset Coalition, Inc., will present at the First Nations Development Institute LEAD conference September 27-29th, on Native CSA program design and specifics of the ONAC CSA program. Two ONAC partners, the Cherokee Nation Office of Child Support Services and the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, will also present on their ONAC CSA projects. 

With grant funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and First Nations Development Institute (with support from the Ford Foundation), ONAC has worked with five partners (either tribes or Native nonprofits) to establish 210 CSAs as of August 2016.  ONAC has confirmed funding to open 425 accounts with nine other partners by April 2018. The CSA projects incorporate not only the savings but also financial education and activities for children, youth, and adults that reflect Native American cultures. ONAC works with tribes and partners interested in establishing asset-building initiatives and programs in Native communities, for the purpose of creating greater opportunities for economic self-sufficiency of tribal citizens.  For more information, contact Finsel: or visit the ONAC website:

 In the March 31, 2014 edition of the Wichita Tribal newsletter an announcement was made that the Tribe had received a grant award from the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition. The First Nations Development Institute (FNDI) serves as the fiscal sponsor. The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes received a grant award from the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition (ONAC) in the amount of $3,500. The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes administered a SummerSmart: Wichita Summer Youth Program to building pride through teaching Wichita history and culture and promoting good health practices. The participants of the SummerSmart program were eligible to receive up to $200 for participation in the program and for attending cultural activities. Our summer interns with the Tribe also received savings accounts as part of their internship. The youth and Interns were given a presentation by First State Bank in Anadarko and received piggy banks when they opened their accounts.Click here to read more.

  Natalie Christie, from Vian, received the Award of Excellence for outstanding participation in the “Save and Secure Financial Literacy Program”. Presenting the award to Christie is UKB Education Intake Specialist, Della Wolfe. Photo by Sammy Still


IDAs in Action - the Transformative Power of Access to Financial Knowledge and Opportunity

Prosperity Kids, the CSA program initiated in 2013 in New Mexico, is featured in an in-depth video from New Mexico public broadcasting. After a general introduction on asset building as an antipoverty tool, the film cuts to interviews with parents and children involved with Prosperity Works, the parent organization for Prosperity Kids. Current and former IDA participants speak about the transformative power of savings and financial knowledge. The children speak of their plans for the futures, and parents describe changes in their children's views of savings.  

The piece is part of a series, Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America, a multi-platform public media initiative on the impact of poverty. The JPB Foundation provided major funding for the series, with additional funding from the Ford Foundation.  

CLICK HERE to watch the video.


Wabash Receives National YMCA Award

On July 17, 2016, Clint Kugler, CEO, Wabash County YMCA, introduced 4,500 YMCA leaders from around the country to the power of asset building. YMCA of the USA featured the Wabash Promise, the first site for the Promise Indiana CSA movement, at the closing keynote session of the General Assembly of YMCAs in Kansas City, MO.

The Community Foundation of Wabash County and the C.S. Mott Foundation are supporting the Promise initiative. For more information on the Promise Indiana, contact: Clint Kugler, or Patty Grant, Executive Director, Community Foundation of Wabash County (

(near minute 6:30 of the video, you'll see the closing keynote referencing CSAs)


NLC Names New CSA Cohort

The National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families launched a City-Led Children’s Savings Account Peer Network in summer 2016. The Peer Network currently includes 13 municipalities focused on designing and launching a CSA program, including Boston, MA; Chelsea, MA; Durham, NC; Garden City, MI; Louisville, KY; Los Angeles, CA; Milwaukee, WI; Oakland, CA; Ogden, UT; Pittsburgh, PA; Plainfield, NJ; San Francisco, CA; and St. Louis, MO.

Cities will participate in quarterly calls on topics such as post-secondary success linkages, CSA funding strategies, building effective city-wide financial inclusion systems, and designing CSA program evaluation and metrics. Please contact Jamie Nash,, for more information or if your city is interested in joining the network.


Has your CSA been in the news? 

Has your CSA been in the news?  Are you starting a CSA you want others to know about? Let us share your good work. Send a note to


CSA Research

Making the Case for Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs)

Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs) are becoming increasingly popular among policymakers, researchers, philanthropic organizations, and community development professionals interested in the topic and practice of asset building. CSA literature tends to focus on how to operationalize CSA efforts, their potential im­pacts and most notably an increasing amounts of interest in Interim Outcome Measures. What is often not discussed is the place CSAs occupy within the broader political economy and how CSAs can be leveraged in practical ways to support the interests of a broad array of policymakers at the state and municipal level.

CSAs require a high degree of cooperation, coordination, and collaboration across multiple sectors and public-sector political and fiscal support is critical to the long-term sustainability of these efforts. For that reason, discussion of CSAs must broaden its focus from de­livery mechanisms, program design, logic models, and mechanism of action to include an assessment of CSAs within the broader po­litical economy and discussion of how best to respond to a broad set of interests and sensibilities, including the interests of policy­makers.

Making the case for Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs) can be challenging however; Policymakers are more likely to support CSAs when they understand the political and economic benefits attached to doing so. In the winter 2017 edition of Communities & Banking I provide four strategies for CSA advocates to consider when “making their case”. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Click here to read the full report.


CSAs and School Performance

Elliott, W., Kite, B., O'Brien, M., Lewis, M., and Palmer, A. (2016) Initial Elementary Education Finding From Promise Indiana's Children's Savings Account Program. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion.

This November report looks at the effects of CSA account holding and saving (at all, and by amount) on school absences and on standardized achievement scores in math and English/reading for children participating in the Promise Indiana CSA. Examining data for all students and then for the subset of students eligible for free/reduced lunch program offers insights into the particular effects on low-income children. The preliminary findings align with patterns seen in secondary research and in outcomes that rigorous research on SEED Oklahoma. Among the highlights: (1) There is no evidence in this study that CSAs are related to children’s absences. (2) CSAs’ effects on academic achievement appear stronger among children receiving free/reduced lunch, suggesting that CSAs may be particularly well-suited to address gaps in academic achievement and underscoring the importance of full inclusion in order to ensure that those most disadvantaged benefit. (3) Initial findings appear strongest in the case of reading (as compared to math), demonstrated in scores on standardized assessment of English/language arts skills. 

Click here to read the full report.


The Power of CSAs to Reduce Wealth Disparities

Equitable Investments in the Next Generation: Designing Policies to Close the Racial Wealth Gap

Laura Sulllivan, Tatjana Meschede, Thomas Shapiro (IASP), and Dedrick Assante-Muhammed, Emanuel Nieves (CFED)

Building on economic modeling developed by the Institute for Assets and Social Policy, the authors highlight a small number of strategies with large potential to reduce wealth disparities. One of them is Children’s Savings Accounts--if they incorporate the concept of targeted universalism. Targeted universalism emphasizes benefits based on existing needs and barriers and calls for progressive incremental support for lower wealth households than for higher-wealth households. Citing previous research, the authors argue that the best CSA programs are both universal and progressive: a savings account for every child in the target group, and greater initial deposits and/or savings matches for youth from economically vulnerable households. They state, “… if the design of a CSA policy were based on household wealth, it would likely do a better job of reducing wealth disparities than if eligibility were based on income.”

Click here to read the full report.


Education Debt Disparities Demonstrated

Racial disparities in education debt burden among low- and moderate-income households

Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Dana Perantie, Samuel Taylor, Shenyang Guo, Ramesh Raghavan

This June 2016 article in Children and Youth Services Review uses data from a Refund To Savings project to show that postsecondary education debt for Black and lower-income students exceeds that of Whites and higher-income students by more than $7700, despite similar liquidity constraints and borrowing risks.  The difference remains after accounting for degree completion and socioeconomic factors. The study confirms disparity by race but also by income. The research results may be useful for design of new CSAs. Universal CSAs that open accounts for all children in a cohort, such as all kindergartners or all children born in a given year, may go some way in reducing both racial and income-based debt if they also consider the many challenges to low-income households in maintaining active accounts.


Designing Sustainable Funding for College Promise Initiatives: Children’s Savings Account Models

William Elliott, AEDI and Andrea Levere, CFED

This paper is one of a series from a June convening by the Education Testing Service on sustainability for College Promise projects.  Promise projects, which typically guarantee all or part of tuition expenses for one or more years of postsecondary education for high school graduates of specific schools or districts, and Children’s Savings Accounts have been emerging simultaneously around the country. The report reviews strengths and challenges of Children’s Savings Accounts and College Promise models and suggests ways that deliberate coordination could increase postsecondary enrollment and completion, especially for disadvantaged and minority students.  

Click here to read the full report.

For more content, see materials from AFN’s October 21 webinar


Teacher Expectations Predict Student Achievement

Nicholas W. Papageorge. Seth Gershenson., and Kyungmin Kang. (2016) Teacher Expectations Matter.

A new brief from the Brookings Institution demonstrates the positive and negative effects of teacher expectations as a predictor of college completion. The authors show that lower expectations, especially for Black students, result in significantly lower completion. Why does this matter for CSAs? Teachers who know a student has a CSA may have higher expectations, which are communicated to the student and which affect student performance. This effect could begin even for very young students, and teacher expectations could be an early indicator for CSA projects to measure. The National Science Foundation supported this research via a grant to the American Educational Research Association. 

Click here to read the full report.


Early Is Better: What Does the Research Say about Early Awareness Strategies for College Access and Success?

Elizabeth Glaser., Carrie Warick., National College Access Network (NCAN).

Early awareness strategies encourage low-income and first-generation students to gain the information, skills, and resources they need to succeed in higher education and constitute first step of an integrated plan for student success, says this March 2016 report. The authors survey a range apparently effective strategies but also note that few projects to date have rigorous, longitudinal evaluations in their designs. Included in their review are savings accounts for children. Citing work by Sondra Beverly, William Elliott and others, the authors conclude that encouraging young students to create savings accounts can be part of early awareness programs that are simple and beneficial.  The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation supported this work.

Click here for the full report.


Latino Immigrant Families Saving in Children's Savings Account Program against Great Odds: Prosperity Kids

Lewis, M., O'Brien, M., Elliott, W., Harrington, K., Crawford, M. (2016)  Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion.

This study explores saving by low-income Latino families, most of whom are immigrants, within a CSA conceived and managed by Prosperity Works, a nonprofit organization in New Mexico. The report details amounts and frequency of deposits but also emphasizes that it is not the amount saved per se but the savings relative to available resources that underlies the transformational effect of CSAs. The project, funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the City of Albuquerque, with additional support from the Partnership for Community Action and other sources, had opened just under 500 CSAs, and many families also had emergency savings. Parents were positioned as their children’s financial educators, an important element of the project design. The data suggest that CSAs may be most successful if local organizations are able to innovate unique features that align with populations’ needs and to layer on culturally-relevant engagement strategies, rooted within existing programs and institution. Kellogg and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation supported the data collection, analysis and production of this report. 

Click here to read the full paper.

Click here for the Executive Summary.


Saving and Educational Asset-Building within a Community-Driven CSA Program: The Case of Promise Indiana

Lewis, M., Elliott, W., O'Brien, M., Jung, E., Harrington, K., Jones-Layman, A. (2016)  Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion.

AEDI researchers distinguish between Children Savings Accounts (CSAs) interventions and Children’s Savings Account Program interventions. Children’s Savings Account research typically focuses on how asset accumulation or account ownership influence outcomes such as parents’ and children’s educational expectations, savings behavior, and/or overall well-being. CSA Program Interventions, however, include accounts but also have a number of other programmatic components aimed at addressing academic and other deficits that have arisen from a history of conjoined asset and racial inequality. These components, such as mentoring, college/career planning, and media campaigns adopted are based on different academic theories and practical considerations such as demographics, funding, and systems (e.g., schools, local government). The report brings together three separate studies that use data from a staff survey of parents involved in Promise Indiana, deposit data from Ascensus College Savings (the 529 administrator for Indiana), and qualitative interviews with parents to begin to tease out the effects and interactions of various programmatic elements. This work is, in part, an effort to respond to the needs of funders and potential funders and stakeholders to begin to envision “best practices” for CSAs, a long-term strategy that has yet to mature with children actually entering postsecondary institutions. An additional feature of this paper is the detailed review of past and present variations of key CSA design elements, such as opt-in/opt-out and communications with parents, and their effects on participation, sustained participation and development of a college-going culture for both children and parents. Complementing these summaries are discussions of the theoretical underpinnings for the effects of CSAs on identity, motivation and other personal dimensions of the participant experience. The Lilly Endowment and the C.S. Mott Foundation supported the development of the tripartite report. 

Click here to read the full paper.


GE Foundation Notes “Essential Skills”

Catherine Gewertz. "Low-Income Students Need More Than Just a College Degree, Report Says." Education Week. (2016)

The GE Foundation, which supports college access and career readiness for low-income and minority students, has published a report on how to improve students’ success in the work place: “New Dimensions of College and Career Readiness.” In addition to mentoring, internships and improvement of ways to impart technical skills, the report notes the importance of “Developing ‘essential skills’ such as higher aspirations, teamwork, grit, perseverance, and adaptability.” These essential skills resonate with findings from CSA research on how children and parents develop and retain aspirations and learn to normalize effort to realize their college-going identities.

Click here to read the original report.


Income Inequality and Drop Out

The conventional thinking among economists has been that income inequality would provide incentives for individuals to invest in their potential human capital to climb the income ladder. But new research from the Brookings Institution challenges that thinking, finding that low-income youth who view middle-class life as out of reach could be deciding to invest less in their own economic future. Looking at boys' graduation rates by state, the authors find that one-quarter or more of those who start high school in the higher inequality states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and the District Columbia fail to graduate in a four-year period, as compared to only around 10 percent in Vermont, Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Nebraska–lower inequality states. CSAs build belief in one’s power to achieve and succeed from an early age, and thus may counter the effects of income inequality. 

Click here for the full report.


CSA Resources 

  • Webinars
  • CSA Program Fact Sheets
  • CSA Program Profiles


The Evidence:

There is a constant stream of new reporting and research on how CSAs affect children and their families, the development of college-going identity and financial plans. Here are a few of the foundational reports.

Multiple CSA Roles for Funders Highlighted at Dallas Roundtable

May 11, 2016

Hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the AFN recently brought together more than 60 representatives of foundations, financial institutions, municipal, and community-based entities to learn about the multiple models for Children's Savings Accounts and various roles funders may play in supporting them.

Discussion explored findings and the role of philanthropy from four different CSA initiatives; two new school-based pilot projects in Texas, an initiative that builds on existing service streams, such as Head Start, and another approach leveraging the commitment of the business and economic sectors of the community combined with the school-based enrollment of kindergartners.

To download a fact sheet on each of the CSA projects discussed, click on the project title below:

Webinar:  Interim Benchmarks for CSAs: What to Measure

May 4, 2016
AFN partnered with the New England Children’s Savings Account Consortium to present a webinar on Identifying Short Term Outcome Metrics for Evaluating Whether Children’s Savings Accounts Programs Are on Track. More than 100 registrants listened to William Elliott, executive director of the Center of Assets, Education and Inclusion at the University of Kansas; and Anthony Poore, deputy director, regional and community outreach, Federal Reserve of Boston.  The New England CSA Consortium, with support from the Boston Federal Reserve, had commissioned the paper, released on April 12. 

Poore and Elliott addressed the challenge of measuring the impact of CSAs at points prior to actual distribution for college expenses. It is important to know whether CSA projects are on track to help close the college attainment gap. Proposed were measures of savings behavior, socio-emotional development, math and reading proficiency, and child and parents’ expectations. 

Click here to review the slide presentation and webinar recording. The full paper is accessible from AFN or the AEDI site or the New England CSA Consortium page for the Boston Federal Reserve.  

For more information, direct questions to William Elliott,; Anthony Poore,; or to Anne Yeoman, CSA project manager for AFN, 





ONAC - Building on CSAs to Build Native American Assets

While a few universal Children’s Savings Accounts may have Native American participants, one project focuses entirely on Native American communities. The Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition (ONAC), which has promoted asset building for 15 years, added CSAs to its long-term strategy in 2012. ONAC worked with TIAA to establish systems for account openings with the Oklahoma 529 and Missouri’s 529 College Savings Plans to accommodate residents of both states; identified financial institutions to partner with ONAC to open savings accounts for youth; and secured funding.  As the program administrator, ONAC works with their partners to customize the account opening events, provides all the program materials, mails in opening account deposit checks per account, and collects initial and follow up quantitative and qualitative data.  The ONAC program partners market the program to the specific tribal populations they serve and host the account opening events.  The ONAC CSA program is the largest Native CSA program in the country.

Accounts may be opened under 529s or with individual financial institutions, and tribal organizations may choose whether to make the accounts custodial. Outside of the 529s, uses of the savings and match may range beyond postsecondary education, depending on tribal preferences. ONAC provides the opening account deposit (ranging from $100 to $200, depending on funding source and partners), a piggy bank with the ONAC logo, a certificate celebrating their account, and an ONAC Native-specific financial education booklet. Each tribal organization sets its own terms for subsequent match it provides and conditions to receive match.

As of December 2016, there were 15 tribes or Native American nonprofits, working as partners with ONAC, to open 316 ONAC-funded accounts (where ONAC directly sent in an opening deposit check per account). ONAC also funded Children’s Savings Account minigrants to four partners to open and fund 75 more accounts, for total of 391 ONAC-funded accounts).   CSAs are linked with a range of services managed by the tribes and nonprofits, such as Head Start, child support, housing, CDCs, CDFIs, elderly services, youth employment, and athletic programs.  A common feature, however, is attention to the meaning of assets in this context.  Native assets broadly include food security, Native arts, sovereignty, education, for example.  Given this asset framework, at ONAC account opening events, youth are invited to participate in a Native arts project, where they talk about assets of value to their family and community, illustrate assets they value, and, if possible, hear from a local Native artist about their traditional artwork. ONAC also gives the youth organic seed packets to promote food cultivation and food sovereignty.

Funding to design and implement the projects has come from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and First Nations Development Institute, with support of the Ford Foundation. The foundations have slightly different terms for the age and household income of youth who may participate. So far, the majority of account holders live in households with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty threshold. Between the two funders, the goal for 2018 is a total of 635 accounts. Most accounts to date are in either Oklahoma or Missouri 529 programs (some members of Oklahoma-based tribes live in Missouri); the remainder are with local financial institutions. A First Nations grant specifically supports the cultural dimensions of the work.

ONAC has designed an on-line application, and if resources become available, is positioned to work with other tribes and Native communities around the country to market the ONAC CSAs to tribal citizens in their communities.

Interest exceeds current funding, and ONAC is looking to the future in other ways as well. Recently work began on establishing a $5 million endowment to insure continued support for CSAs. The Chickasaw Nation made the lead gift of $250,000.

For more information, contact Christy Finsel, ONAC Executive Director, at  To learn more about ONAC, go to

Participating Tribes and Nonprofits  (box)

Wichita and Affiliated Tribes*

United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians*
Kaw Nation*
Mvskoke Loan Fund
Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
Osage Financial Resources, Inc.
Cherokee Nation Child Support Services
BeLieving In Native Generations
American Indian Resource Center, Inc.
Scholarship Foundation Program of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation
Ranch Good Days, Inc. *
Pawnee Tribe Title VI Elderly Meals Program
Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation
Ponca Tribe Head Start
Housing Authority of the Seminole Nation

* Indicates minigrantee


Reidsville Children’s Initiative: Building CSAs with A Family Approach

The Reidsville Area Foundation (RAF) has had a small but successful initiative for out-of-school educational enrichment for children and financial education for their parents. Now these children have CSAs to reinforce their educational expectations.

The foundation, active in Rockingham County in the Piedmont Triad of NC since 2001, had been working to coordinate services for children and parents in public housing through its NorthStar Children’s Initiative. Previous activities included parent participation in financial education and learning to advocate for their children at school. Their children enjoyed out of school activities, including summer camp, campus visits, and academic support. Seeing success with parents asking for more financial information and some becoming self-sufficient, RAF researched ways to do more to boost children’s and families’ odds at moving up the economic ladder. Staff landed on matching savings for the children as a way to help families develop a savings habit, as well as to build resources for their children’s postsecondary education.

As of November 2016, there were 8 CSAs open, and three had deposits in addition to the seed funds. One family had made four deposits. The accounts begin with a $100 deposit when the children enter kindergarten, but enrollment takes place at ParkView Village, the local housing authority, and parents must choose to enroll their students. The foundation will match up to $250 a year through 5th grade graduation for a maximum amount of $1,500 that can be used for education only. In addition, the foundation will consider linking matches to benchmarks such as making the honor roll, attendance, or doing community work during middle and high school years.

RAF is the custodian for all the children’s accounts, which are held at a local financial institution, while the earned incentives are held in a separate pool. The arrangement reinforces the involvement of the larger community and the board likes the idea of children being able to actually go to the bank. Parents will receive bank statements reflecting their deposits, and the foundation will communicate the corresponding dollars set aside for each child. Text messaging will be another way to keep parents and children aware of how much their savings are growing and to remind them to make deposits.

 ““The parents at  ParkView are just like any other parents. They want the best for their children, and they want better than they had. We want to help them see that it is possible to move out of poverty with the right support, tools, and training."

--Amber Berger, Program Officer, Reidsville Area Foundation

Because of its previous work with the parents and children, RAF already has baseline information against which to measure the effects of the CSAs, including grades, attendance, suspensions, attitudes and behaviors. Focus groups will also play a part in measuring progress. Parent involvement with the school, which is already increasing, will be another factor. RAF is working with the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina to develop an evaluation plan that will encompass measures for the CSA but also for the broader NorthStar Children’s Initiative.

With one site off the ground, RAF hopes to extend the savings opportunity to other children in the county in the future. The Rockingham County Champions for Education (RCCE), an association of high school graduates from the county, has provided scholarships to graduating seniors but wants to expand their efforts in the community. RAF is currently working with RCCE to start a second NorthStar Children's Initiative site at the highest-need school in the county. As this initiative progresses, components may include savings accounts and financial literacy.

For more information, contact Amber Berger, 


Barry City - Kicking It Up in Michigan: Kick Start to Career

Kick Start to Career in Barry County, Michigan, is not the first Children’s Savings Accounts initiative to arise in a rural community, but it offers a model that addresses an important challenge for CSA projects: sustainability. It also demonstrates yet again the agility that allows a community foundation to engage a wide range of stakeholders and develop a design tailored to its local context.

Kick Start to Career uses an opt-out approach and targets all kindergarteners living in the county’s seven school districts—whether in public or parochial school or home schooled. Each account at the Hastings City Bank is seeded with $50; deposits of $5 can earn up to $25 in the first year.

But Bonnie Gettys, president of the Barry Community Foundation (BCF), was looking far down the road to insure sustainability. Fortunately, a local philanthropy had the same idea. The first gift was $30,000, from the Douglas and Margaret DeCamp Foundation. But the DeCamps soon took the long view and came back with $750,000 to endow the CSA project, enough to fund the projected 700 accounts a year over time.  The support aligns with their on-going interest in early childhood education.

Says Gettys, “We believe in the importance of forever.”

In addition, BCF received a $500K disbursement from an estate and uses those funds for initial incentives, complementing school system and district dollars. The large up front investments are truly investments. The foundation uses a complex payout formula that insures sustained real dollar value to into the future. The financial depth also means the foundation can focus on project implementation, improvement, and outcomes and less on generating new funds for support. BCF picks up part of project operations costs in its own budget, and Hastings Bank does not charge to manage the accounts. Gettys says the project is totally funded by philanthropy; there is no link to a 529 account or any public funding: even funds managed by school districts are from private sources.

Formal evaluation is still being designed, so it is too soon to measure details.  BCF works with the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan to capture and analyze account activity. Other measures, such as visibility in schools and participation in community events are in the mix.

Already, says Gettys, it is clear that the teachers are the engines for continued enthusiasm and activity in the 700 accounts opened by November 2016, Kick Start’s second year. They use the accounts and piggy banks to teach counting and basic math, as well as the basis for “dreaming” activities. The children know that what is in the piggy banks is only par of their savings. They can imagine how they will use their money: part for a pony, perhaps, but certainly part for college. The foundation provides additional incentives for classrooms that keep and use the banks. Instructors are encouraged to use curriculum materials provided but also apply their own creativity when it comes to reinforcing the savings and college-going message.

Parents also receive attention. The foundation sees the CSAs as part of a larger family financial empowerment strategy. One of the goals is to establish a savings habit among their households. In addition to the CSA activities with the children, the parents are invited to participate in financial education provided by Hastings Bank staff. Doing so results in an additional $5 incentive in their child’s account. At the same time, the foundation thought it essential that the accounts be deposit only, and the foundation is the custodian.

There are still challenges, of course. While the relatively low population, some 60,000, means the number of accounts is manageable, geography and transportation can be difficult: one district does not have a local bank branch for deposits.

Gettys enthusiastically shares what the foundation has learned. For more information, contact Bonnie Gettys, Executive Director, Barry Community Foundation,; or Amy murphy, KickStart Coordinator:, (269-945-0526);

 “We believe in the importance of forever.”

--Bonnie Gettys, President, Barry Community Foundation

Box: Funders

Douglas and Margaret DeCamp Family Foundation
Private estate
Barry Community Foundation
School system and individual districts


Learn more

contact Anne Yeoman, CSA Project Manager (



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May 11, 2016:  Multiple CSA Roles for Funders Highlighted at Dallas Roundtable

Hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the AFN recently brought together more than 60 representatives of foundations, financial institutions, municipal, and community-based entities to learn about the multiple models for Children's Savings Accounts and various roles funders may play in supporting them. Discussion explored findings and the role of philanthropy from four different CSA initiatives; two new school-based pilot projects in Texas, an initiative that builds on existing service streams, such as Head Start, and another approach leveraging the commitment of the business and economic sectors of the community combined with the school-based enrollment of kindergartners.  Click here to learn more, or review the in-depth event recap in CSA Resources above.  



May 4, 2016: Webinar: Interim Benchmarks for CSAs: What to Measure 

AFN partnered with the New England Children’s Savings Account Consortium to present a webinar on Identifying Short Term Outcome Metrics for Evaluating Whether Children’s Savings Accounts Programs Are on Track. More than 100 registrants listened to William Elliott, executive director of the Center of Assets, Education and Inclusion at the University of Kansas; and Anthony Poore, deputy director, regional and community outreach, Federal Reserve of Boston.  The New England CSA Consortium, with support from the Boston Federal Reserve, had commissioned the paper, released on April 12.  Click here to view resources from the presentation. 


ARCHIVE: CSA News & Research 

Technology Enhances CSA Efforts in MA

Leveraging Technology to Support Children’s Savings Accounts. This article in Communities and Banking (Federal Reserve of Boston) describes why and how Inversant, a Massachusetts CSA and scholarship program provider effectively modified and extended its use of technology to increase savings and other involvement of families.


Foster Youth to Have Matched Savings in Maine

In late May 2016, the Maine Youth Transition Network launched a program to seed college savings accounts for youth and young adults involved in Maine's child welfare system. Becca Matusovich, policy associate at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine, is leading the effort, in partnership with Maine's Department of Heath and Human Services and the Finance Authority of Maine's NextGen program. 

This initiative will provide youth in foster care who are ages 14 to 17 with NextGen 529 accounts, starting with $300 in seed money and matching grants. Since they are minors, DHHS will open the accounts on their behalf. During their transition from middle to high school, these youth will know people are investing in them. When the youth turns 18, accounts will be turned over to them to be used for post-secondary educational expenses. Alumni of Maine's foster care system who are over 18 are also eligible to participate.  For more information, contact Becca Matusovich: or 207-780-4865.


MA Meets Another Milestone

Worcester Mag featured an article on Massachusetts’s pilot for its CSA, planned to go statewide in the future. WBUR Boston Public Radio also reported on the kickoff of $eedMA. The project will deposit $50 for any of Worcester’s 1,500 eligible kindergartners with a 529 account. The Worcester school system is also embedding a multigenerational financial education curriculum into classrooms and the community. State Treasurer Deb Goldberg has made the project a centerpiece of the newly established Office of Economic Empowerment. 


Massachusetts Meets Milestone

The final Massachusetts 2017 state budget includes funding for a pilot College Savings Account (CSA) program for low-income residents. This plan calls for spending no less than $750,000 to create a public-private partnership establishing a two-year CSA for low-income residents in at least five towns. Aimed at families with children in grades 7 through 12, the plan includes matching grants for families who contribute at least $100 annually (up to a maximum of $500 annually) and ties college savings to parent engagement. State funds come from the Economic Empowerment Trust Fund will match private funds: To learn more:


New Hampshire News

In May 2016, State Representative Mary Giles, and Carl Rist, CSA director for CFED, published an editorial in the Concord Monitor. The article outlined legislation introduced in the state house to support two CSA pilots, with complementary funding from the private sector. For more information click here.

How Much Can High-Quality Universal Pre-K Reduce Achievement Gaps?

Allison Friedman-Krauss, W. Steven Barnett, Milagros Norres. April 2016. NIEER with Center for American Progress

The authors argue that high-quality early childhood education can reduce or eliminate the math and reading gaps between minority and white children and, to a lesser degree, between low- and high-income children. Many CSA projects open accounts for children at birth or kindergarten.  The underlying premise of CSAs is that having savings accounts dedicated for postsecondary education has a profound effect on self-identity: “I will go to college.” Expectations lead to positive socio-emotional and academic development.  To maximize the long-term goal of postsecondary enrollment, CSA funders and practitioners may want to consider the quality of education that their accountholders can access and, if warranted, seek partners to insure the earliest educational exposures support that goal.

Click here to read more.

Funder Challenge

New Hampshire State Representative Mary Stuart Gile authored an opinion piece with CFED’s Carl Rist, on the state’s emerging CSA program. If passed, a bill would authorize $100 in seed money for every kindergartner. The first pilots would be in rural Coos Country and the city of Manchester. To initiate the project, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation has challenged the state to equal its investment.  The original article ran in the Concord Monitor.

New England News

New England continues to set the pace for regional coordination around CSAs. Check out this story in the March issue of State Legislatures magazine.

Parking Fines?

For a most unusual CSA funding source, check out College Kids in St. Louis.  For a project profile, CLICK HERE

Dollars for College highlighted by NPR

National Public Radio featured the Dollars for College CSA initiated in the Richardson School District near Dallas. The project opens CSAs for children in two schools. READ MORE