Students Share How Children’s Savings Accounts and Wraparound Services Help Them Achieve Their College Dreams

Note: This guest post was written by Kaitlin Archambault, Director of Marketing & Communications for the “I Have A Dream” Foundation.

The “I Have A Dream” Foundation (IHDF) is a leading education nonprofit focused on breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty. The foundation provides a comprehensive support program that follows the same group of young people (“Dreamers”) from elementary school all the way through college. IHDF affiliates in Boulder, CO; Des Moines, IA; and New York, NY partner with the 1:1 Fund, Prosperity Now’s online platform for CSA programs to raise money from individual donors. IHDF is also an organizational partner of the Campaign for Every Kid’s Future.

IHDF’s Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program—called DREAM accounts—combines a low-cost CSA with an evidence-based set of college access milestones and a robust postsecondary financial education curriculum. The DREAM accounts program reinforces a college-going culture and provides our Dreamers’ families with vital information and financial support to help offset the cost of college tuition and supplies.

As part of this April’s Financial Capability Month, IHDF interviewed several of our college Dreamers from New York City about how CSAs have influenced their paths to college.

How did reaching your CSA milestones (i.e., completing college-related activities to earn money placed in the DREAM accounts) help you prepare for college?

“For many tasks, it is difficult to see the big idea—completing financial aid, taking standardized tests, having enough credits. I think money is a very tangible incentive for achieving milestones. Even though there may not have been immediate benefit, there is a clear benefit at the end.”Ming

“Reaching my college savings account milestones and earning savings for college helped me in preparation for college in that it kept me on task, especially with deadlines because I was more inclined to get things done right away instead of waiting [until the] last minute.” Karen  

How have you used your CSA to support you in your transition to college? 

“I have used my college savings account to support me in my transition to college by getting a laptop. With the laptop, I am able to take notes during classes, follow along with professors in presentations and do homework.”Karen 

How would you have paid for these resources or supplies if you didn't have a CSA? 

“I honestly would not have been able to. I really do appreciate and feel lucky to have a college savings account.” – Robert 

“I would have taken out a loan and apply to high-paying jobs.” – Ivan 

“If I didn’t have a college savings account, I would’ve paid for the laptop by using the money I earned from my summer internship, which I also got through ‘I Have A Dream.’” – Karen 

How has having a CSA made your transition to college, or your college experience so far, an easier one?

“Having a college savings account made my transition to college easier by giving me the peace of mind that necessary purchases won't make a significant negative financial impact.” – Ming 

What would your advice be for a younger Dreamer who is just beginning the journey towards college? Are there any specific academic or financial tips you would like to share? 

“Academically, I think it is very important to look at your syllabi and make a checklist for every class so nothing gets lost in the mix of things. I think it's also very important to block out time for specific tasks; there's a lot less structure in college so you need to keep yourself on track. Financially, I recommend making an honest budget. If you find yourself living beyond your current means, find a job or reassess your spending.” – Ming 

“I would tell them to never give up and always keep going. You should always strive for greatness and don’t let anything distract you. In the long run, you will realize all the studying and hard work you put in throughout your education will pay off in the future.” – Robert 

IDHF demonstrates that even modest savings for low- and moderate-income children help them achieve economic and social mobility. If you’d like to learn more about IHDF, visit ihaveadreamfoundation.org or the 1:1 Fund’s partner page.

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