Having a college savings account makes students almost seven times more likely to attend college than those who don’t have an account, according to a 2010 study from Washington University in St. Louis. The study also found that having a savings account was a better way to predict whether a child would attend college than race or family net worth.

Knowing this, the KIPP Through College team was thrilled to be selected by Promise Indiana for their innovative college savings initiative. “Through this partnership, KIPP Indy students have the opportunity to open 529 college savings account at no cost to them,” said Randi Perry, who leads the KIPP Through College team.

The Marion County Promise pilot, of which KIPP Indy is now a part, was created by Promise Indiana, a Hoosier-focused and led program dedicated to helping students matriculate to college. The program has a multitude of benefits for KIPP Indy families, including:

● No required deposit from a family; the community makes an initial deposit of $25 to the student’s savings account
● Simplified enrollment process, online or paper form
● Opportunity for additional dollars from the community – if a student engages “champions” and raises $25 for their 529 account, the community will deposit an additional $75
● Money in the account can only be used for a student’s future education expenses – parents cannot withdraw money for any other reason.

“The fact that the enrollment process is simplified is going to be really helpful for our families,” said Randi. “We tried to launch a similar program on our own at KIPP Indy a couple of years ago, but one of the biggest barriers was that the application to open an account was more than 20 pages long and complicated. People got frustrated and the program didn’t work.”

Randi added that “as much as this is about increasing the likelihood of students attending college, it’s also about having students practice a behavior that affirms that they are capable of going to college. It says that the community believes in them and is willing to invest in them.”

Promise Indiana is mission aligned with KIPP Through College’s programming, which is part of the reason that KIPP Indy was selected for the pilot. “We believe in getting kids to and through college and this program is a perfect fit for that goal.”

The program has been available to students since orientation in July. Randi said, “Our ambitious goal is to have 70 percent of the school participate this calendar year. We think that once parents see how easy it is to participate and that they don’t have to provide any funds they will be excited to sign up. For a family with a kindergartner, if they open the account now and add nothing to it their child should have around $2,500 by the time they reach college. That obviously won’t cover everything, but it’s real money that can help with books or other education expenses.”