By Bill Parry
More than 3,500 kindergarten students in western Queens are getting a head start on saving up for college with the help of a charitable nonprofit organization.
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) joined dozens of kindergarten students and their parents at PS 2 in Astoria Monday as NYC Kids Rise announced the opening of its NYC Scholarship Accounts.
“It’s a pilot program here in New York City and we’re here kicking it off with $100 for every child in kindergarten in School District 30,” Crowley said.
The district encompasses Astoria, Long Island City, Woodside, Sunnyside, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights and, pending the success of the program, the initiative would expand to provide a universal scholarship account to every child in the New York City public school system.
“What is so important about this program is that research shows that a low-income child who has between a dollar and $500 in a college savings account is three times more likely to go to college than a child that has no college savings account,” Chairwoman of NYC Kids Rise Julie Menin said. “And when they are in college, they are four times more likely to graduate, so this is one of the reasons for launching NYC Rise.”
The organization also announced a new $500,000 gift from Citi Community Development, which adds to the initial $10 million grant from the Gray Foundation to fund the program and support parent and community engagement.
Menin, who serves as commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, helped start the program when she was the commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs. The efforts are the first steps in a long-term partnership with families, schools and communities to save together for every child’s college future.
Families can earn up to an additional $200 in rewards and matching funds, on top of the $100 seed deposit, for their child’s scholarship account during the program’s first three years.
NYC Kids Rise provides the tools and resources to empower families to start saving while their children are young and continue saving. NYC Kids Rise will also enable community members to contribute to participating children’s college savings in the future.
Sesame Street’s Elmo joined Crowley and Menin and entertained the children as the parents turned their attention to a workshop for a new online portal that will allow them to track their children’s NYC Scholarship Accounts, open their own New York State 529 college savings accounts, and earn additional funds for their children’s future.
“It’s something I’m working on at the national level,” Crowley said. “I have a bill that would put $500 in an account for every newborn in America and anyone in the family could contribute up to $2,000 per year towards this account. It’s a meaningful way to save for education, buying a home or starting a business, things of that nature, starting out early and giving people real opportunities.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr