NYC to Start College Savings Pilot Program

Following in the footsteps of other U.S. cities.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Reps Nancy Pelosi and Nydia Velázquez read to a pre-K class in Brooklyn last spring. (Anthony DelMundo/New York Daily News via AP, Pool)

This is your first of three free stories this month. Become a free or sustaining member to read unlimited articles, webinars and ebooks.

Become A Member

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has made universal pre-K a cornerstone of his administration. He also wants to make sure those youth make it all the way through higher education. Starting next fall, the city will launch a three-year pilot program to create college savings accounts for thousands of New York City kindergartners in a bid to increase the number of low-income children who attend college, the New York Times reports.

Each year of the pilot, the families of about 3,500 children enrolled in public or charter schools will receive $100 in a 529 savings account created by the city. Families will be eligible for another $200 over four years if they meet certain benchmarks, like investing small amounts of their own.

The program is financed with a $10 million donation by Jon Gray, of investment firm Blackstone Group.

The accounts won’t pay an entire college tuition alone. Assuming a 4.5 percent annual return on the initial $100 and $200 in matching funds, the accounts will only be worth $475 after 12 years. But the program’s architects argue the goal is also psychological: encouraging parents to believe their children can go to college and to prepare for that future.

William Elliott, an associate professor and director of the Center on Assets, Education and Inclusion at the University of Kansas, told the Times, “If you have savings early on, you’re more likely to be connected to financial institutions later in life. You’re more likely to buy stocks, invest in real estate, buy a home, do the things that build assets.”

Child savings accounts programs are relatively new, but not untested. San Francisco has created a savings account for every kindergartner in the city’s public schools since 2012, and similar programs exist in Oakland and Boston. Research into the effects of Oklahoma’s program showed that infants selected to receive $1,000 in a 529 account performed better on a measure of socioemotional development at age 4 than similar children who did not receive it. Their mothers also fared better, showing fewer symptoms of depression than mothers of infants without savings accounts.

New York’s program will begin in one of the city’s 32 community school districts, but the city eventually hopes to expand to all of New York. Because the initial $100 will be deposited into an omnibus 529 account, immigrants without Social Security numbers or individual taxpayer identification numbers will also be able to participate.

Like what you’re reading? Get a browser notification whenever we post a new story. You’re signed-up for browser notifications of new stories. No longer want to be notified? Unsubscribe.

Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at

Follow Jen .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Tags: new york citypublic schools

Next City App Never Miss A StoryDownload our app ×

You've reached your monthly limit of three free stories.

This is not a paywall. Become a free or sustaining member to continue reading.

  • Read unlimited stories each month
  • Our email newsletter
  • Webinars and ebooks in one click
  • Our Solutions of the Year magazine
  • Support solutions journalism and preserve access to all readers who work to liberate cities

Join 991 other sustainers such as:

  • Brian at $10/Month
  • Joseph at $5/Month
  • Anonymous in Newburyport, MA at $5/Month

Already a member? Log in here. U.S. donations are tax-deductible minus the value of thank-you gifts. Questions? Learn more about our membership options.

or pay by credit card:

All members are automatically signed-up to our email newsletter. You can unsubscribe with one-click at any time.

  • Donate $60 or

    Just Action by Leah Rothstein and Richard Rothstein

  • Solutions of the year 2022

    Donate $20 or $5/Month

    2022-2023 Solutions of the Year magazine

  • Brave New Home

    Donate $40 or $10/Month

    Brave New Home by Diana Lind