MAY 2023

Many of you are celebrating someone’s graduation this Spring, whether it is a family member, a friend or neighbor, or a community. Indeed, we all have or will engage in celebrating educational graduations. At AFN, we think this is a critical value we need to reinforce as an equity tool that opens up the pathways for many asset building opportunities.  Post-secondary education, in particular, is a key to participation in the economy with the potential to consistently build disposable income for asset building.

We can also celebrate the progress in renewing the commitment to asset building as a shared value. A major reason to celebrate is the leadership of several state legislatures to learn from philanthropic investments and research. In state after state, legislatures and Governors have acted to increase household income through tax policy or ending fees and fines and/or invested in supports for asset building to low and moderate income households.  The media mostly ignores the positive systemic changes being made – but they matter.  

For example, the 5 millionth child in the country is now the recipient of a Children’s Savings Account (a.k.a. children’s development accounts). More importantly, the momentum continues as the number keeps growing given the statewide programs created by states including California, Maine, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Rhode Island, and Nebraska – with several other states in development. The initial and continued investments by philanthropy, especially as championed by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Alfond Fund, and many community foundations, is now increasingly also being championed by city and state governments.  All in the effort to support families, children and teens in believing that they have a pathway (call it aspiration) to have real hope to gain post secondary education given their account as an asset. CSA’s are and will continue to be a very positive force. 

More than 14 states now invest in tuition free community colleges and several in free four year college education. These investments matter since the promise of post-secondary education with little or no debt should be the reflection of our priority to build equity in the economy. Philanthropic and public funding for Promise programs is another key towards realizing this value and reversing the harm the high cost system with crushing debt has caused. 

And in a leading role, we applaud Connecticut’s legislative leaders, Governor Ned Lamont, State Treasurer Erich Russell, and many other legislators who championed the effort to become the first state to authorize and, most importantly, fund Connecticut Baby Bonds!   AFN members have featured this proposal – developed by Darrick Hamilton and others – over the years. We are very excited to see the significant cash investment in the birthright to asset building begin to be realized. Connecticut’s Baby Bonds will be an initial asset at birth of $3,200 to an estimated 15,000 children born each year to a family covered by  the HUSKY health insurance program (the state’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This public funding of the Baby Bonds asset will passively appreciate until the children are 18 creating a potential game changer for those adults to invest in post-secondary education, a small business, or to purchase a house to help position them with a greater array of wealth-building possibilities. And Connecticut is not the only state! At least 9 others are moving forward or considering the transformative adoption of Baby Bonds including Massachusetts, California, Washington D.C., Washington, Nevada, Wisconsin, North Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia, and Maryland.

We need to celebrate these wins in state-led systemic change. Philanthropic members of AFN have pioneered these ideas, supported the research and narrative, made new ideas about investing in the future acceptable through their embrace, engaged in network activation of the ideas, and supported advocates and leading voices of change.  

The work is hardly done, the racial, gender and generational wealth gaps are great and growing. Take a moment to appreciate the wins, and let’s continue to build on them for greater systemic change that helps to advance racial and gender justice in an equitable economy where we all can thrive. Join AFN and your peers to build this effort.