Assets and Opportunity
Few things are as foundational to economic opportunity and social mobility (or as easy to take for granted if you are fortunate enough to have some) as assets. Purely understood, we’re talking about the simplest measure of an individual’s ability to purchase things: better housing in a neighborhood with good schools, a college education, healthy food. But it’s not necessary to talk about large numbers to see that even modest increases in strategic assets can make a profound difference in people’s lives. A low-interest rate mortgage. A raise. A scholarship. It can be intimidating to consider the scope of this indicator, but just a few simple steps can yield impressive results.
We’ll focus on a goal of particular importance to Opportunity Nation: assets related to college savings accounts. Astonishingly, the amount of money in the savings account doesn’t much matter – it’s the sheer fact of having a dedicated college savings account in a child’s name and planning for a future that includes higher education that’s transformative. Even modest holdings more than double a child’s chance of going to college. Studies show that children with college savings accounts are seven times more likely to attend college than children who lack such accounts.
This is great news – and we need to do more to encourage more families to open college savings accounts. One of Opportunity Nation’s top legislative priorities is the American Dream Accounts Act. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have reintroduced the bipartisan bill, which would authorize the creation of online college savings accounts combined with resources and support intended to help more students access a college education that leads to a career.
Opportunity Nation executive director Mark Edwards recently co-wrote an op-ed with CFED head Andrea Levere for Politico supporting the bill. “If passed,” they wrote, “the Coons-Rubio bill could be an important bipartisan catalyst for new children’s savings efforts nationwide, some of which are already taking shape at the state and local level.” We’re incredibly excited for our Hill Day June 11-12 when Opportunity Leaders, Scholars and Coalition Partners will be joining us to talk with Senators about the importance of this and other opportunity-related legislation. But there’s something you can do, too: call, email, or Tweet your Senators, asking them to support the American Dream Accounts Act.
Regardless of the outcome of that legislation, both nonprofit and corporate partners are committed to do their part to increase the college savings rate. At our recent college savings event co-hosted by CFED, Jocelyn Stewart, senior director of community relations for Barclaycard US, spoke about the steps her organization is taking to increase college savings. As 60% of low-income students enter college and only 8% graduate, Barclaycard US decided to launch a mentoring website offering peer tips and saving tools. It will go live in Delaware in Fall 2013. We look forward to seeing what other solutions are created to address these issues!