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San Joaquin A+ will place $750 in a savings account for each child participating in the program.

SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY, Calif. — On Monday, San Joaquin A+, a local nonprofit organization committed to education, launched the Child Savings Account pilot program.

It’s a tax-free long-term investment account for children ages 3 and 4 enrolled in income-based early childhood programs. San Joaquin A+ will place $750 in a savings account for each child participating in the program. In the first year, the program is already available to more than 2,000 families.

By the time the child turns 18 and graduates from high school, the deposited funds will grow to a minimum of $1,800 to be used for any post-secondary education. That includes 2-year college, 4-year college, trade or certification programs.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to kick this program off with local families and community partners,” said Don Shalvey, CEO of San Joaquin A+. “Studies have found that children from low-income backgrounds that have $500 or less in a College Savings Account are three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate, compared to those with no college savings. This is all about us as a community coming together to support these families, and to show them that we are invested in the future of their children.”

The Child Savings Accounts are managed to allow funds for postsecondary opportunities to grow over time at much faster rates than they could in a standard checking or savings account. Once a student attends college or a trade program, the funds are provided to the student or sent directly to the college or trade program to cover the cost of tuition, books, or other fees.

“This is a great opportunity for families and youth in our community,” said Stockton Mayor Kevin Lincoln. “I know that in today’s economy, building skills and knowledge beyond high school is not only extremely important for these children, but it is essential for us to thrive as a region long-term. With this college savings account program, youth will get a down-payment at a young age to put toward college or a post-high school certification to help prepare them for a family-sustaining, livable wage career right here in our region.”

According to a 2020 report by California Competes, a research organization based in San Francisco, educational attainment varies widely by race and region. In California, White and Asian people are more likely to have at least a bachelor’s degree. The report also explains that more than half of Latinx and nearly half of Native American or Alaska Natives in California never started college. Meanwhile, nearly a third of Black people in the state began college but never finished.

Regionally, the same report shows, Bay Area residents are most likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree, about 52%. But San Joaquin Valley residents are least likely to have a four-year degree, about 17% compared to the statewide average of 35%.

“Our family is so grateful for the opportunity to participate in this program,” said Almarosa Sanchez, the parent of Frankie who attends PreK at a CAPC site in Stockton. “As parents, we of course are always thinking about our kid’s future. My oldest, Lilliana, is 6 and didn’t have an opportunity like this, so actually having a savings account set up in his name that we can contribute to, and watch grow is a game-changer for us.” 

The California Student Aid Commission awarded San Joaquin County $4.6 million to pilot the Child Savings Accounts program. The total goal over the pilot period is to provide about 4,300 students, ages 3 and 4, enrolled in a local county or state-subsidized preschool program with a $750 deposit into a CSA over the next two years. 

“I can’t wait to see the worlds that open up for these children as they continue to grow and learn and become adults with families of their own,” said Troy Brown, superintendent of the San Joaquin County Office of Education. “Programs like this are so powerful because they invest in students early in life, in a way that has the potential to elevate their trajectory from an early age. And when we have the commitment from partners in the community like we do today, we know our efforts become that much more likely to succeed.”

The core group partners who have volunteered to collaborate with San Joaquin A+ to sign up families in the pilot year include: The San Joaquin County Office of Education, SJ Child Abuse Prevention Council, Creative Child Care, El Concilio, and Lodi Unified School District.

“Growing up, my parents were always focused on work, work, work and I was the only child of 9 to go to school,” Sanchez said. “I want the same for my kids. It gives us, and Frankie, something concrete to work on throughout our academic journey moving forward.”

To learn more about the Child Savings Account program visit the program website.

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