Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Menin and NYC Kids Rise Announce Queens Public School District to Pilot the First NYC Child Savings Account Program, Helping Thousands of Students Save for College

January 5, 2017

New savings initiative will give participating families the opportunity to create a long-term savings plan and make higher education more achievable for NYC public school students

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio, Commissioner of Media and Entertainment Julie Menin, Chair of the newly formed charitable nonprofit organization NYC Kids RISE, the Gray Foundation’s Mindy and Jon Gray, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Richard Buery, and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña today announced that School District 30 in Queens – encompassing Astoria, Ditmars, East Elmhurst, Hunter’s Point, Jackson Heights, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside – will launch NYC’s Child Savings Account initiative in the fall, helping thousands of New York City public school children save for college.

“All of NYC’s kids deserve the chance to attend college and pursue their dreams, regardless of their family’s economic status. Today we’re announcing a savings account for thousands of children in Queens, which we know will dramatically increase their likelihood of getting a college degree. As a public school parent, I extend my deepest thanks to the Gray Foundation, Commissioner Menin and others who have worked so hard to make child savings accounts a reality for these families. We hope to see this program continue to grow so families across the five boroughs can start saving early for their children’s future,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

As part of the program, approximately 3,500 kindergarteners in School District 30 will each have $100 allocated to them in scholarship accounts in fall 2017, plus up to an additional $200 in matching funds during the program’s first three years. A total of approximately 10,000 children will be part of the initiative during the three-year period. There will be no cost to participate in the program, and every kindergarten student enrolled in public schools in that district will be automatically enrolled in the program starting in the fall.

Pending a successful pilot program, the CSA initiative’s goal will be to expand and provide a universal scholarship account to every child in the New York City public school system. NYC Kids RISE, the nonprofit overseeing the scholarship accounts and programs within the guidelines of NY’s 529 College Savings Program, plans to launch efforts to raise additional private funds to support the ongoing costs of the initiative and to explore opportunities to scale.

“By investing in the future of our children, we will dramatically increase the chance that they will not only enroll in college, but graduate,” said Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin, who also serves as Chair of the nonprofit organization NYC Kids RISE. “Starting the NYC CSA in District 30, which represents New York’s great diversity, should ensure the success and longevity of the program and lay the foundation to expand citywide. Through this program, the students of District 30 will see first-hand the benefits of long term savings, and, in turn, we hope to help families take control of their own financial futures.” 

“One of the most important things we can do to help more young people get on the path to college graduation – and after that, into successful careers – is helping them and their families understand that college is possible and build a financial plan to get there. Research has shown that even a modest college savings account can have a massive impact on college matriculation and persistence,” said Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives. “As the first to benefit from the CSA program, District 30 families will play a critical role in developing this program for families across the city.”

“This pilot is a critical step forward as we strengthen students’ paths to college and careers, and I look forward to working with NYC Kids RISE and District 30 leaders to make a difference for this community’s students and families,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “I thank the Gray Foundation and Commissioner Menin for their partnership and commitment in making this pilot a reality, and supporting equity and excellence for our students.”

"New York's 529 College Savings Program builds the foundation needed to help fund the cost of higher education," said State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. "As the cost of obtaining a college education continues to rise, saving now is important to offset future expenses. I can think of no better investment than an education."

Jon Gray, co-Founder of the Gray Foundation said, “Mindy and I believe that all children should have the opportunity to reach their highest potential. We are excited to partner with the City of New York to pilot this impactful program in District 30 in Queens. NYC Kids RISE will help public school students plan and save for higher education at an early age, improve financial literacy, and expand the benefits from long-term investing to all families."

With up to $10 million in seed funding contributed by the Gray Foundation and working in collaboration with New York’s 529 College Savings Program, the CSA initiative will provide participating children access to financial resources to be used to obtain a post-secondary education. The initiative will encourage positive financial behaviors and life-long savings, through improved financial education and capability, and will democratize the benefits of long-term investing.

School District 30 was selected to launch the three-year pilot program following a quantitative and qualitative analysis of all 32 geographic school districts in New York City in order to identify a district that was both representative of the public school population with respect to poverty levels, ethnicity, English language learners, and students with disabilities, and also had the infrastructure in place to support the pilot program.

The Gray Foundation's gift will also provide start-up funding for the CSA program’s infrastructure and personnel. Beginning this month, Debra-Ellen Glickstein will serve as the Executive Director of NYC Kids RISE. Glickstein has worked with communities to expand economic opportunities for nearly 20 years and recently served as the Executive Director of New York City’s Office of Financial Empowerment, the first municipal office in the country focused on creating innovative financial products, programs and services to enable asset building and wealth creation for low income New Yorkers and neighborhoods.

Glickstein will work with NYC Kids RISE’s board of directors, which includes Commissioner Julie Menin as Chair, NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Richard Buery, and Executive Director of the Gray Foundation Dana Zucker. Commissioner Menin will continue in her role as Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

The Department of Consumer Affairs and its Office of Financial Empowerment will also be involved with the initiative, utilizing its Financial Empowerment Centers to help families create their financial savings plans.

A top priority for the de Blasio Administration is to create equity and excellence in education for all of New York City’s children. This Administration is creating a path to college and careers starting with Pre-K for All – which is in its third year of providing every 4-year-old in the city with a free, full-day, high-quality pre-K seat – and continuing through elementary, middle, and high school. The City’s high school graduation rate is over 70 percent for the first time, the dropout rate is the lowest ever recorded, and college readiness and enrollment rates are also at record highs. As the City builds on this progress through the Mayor’s Equity and Excellence for All agenda – including the College Access for All initiative, which will provide every student with the awareness, resources, and support to graduate high school with an individual college and career plan – the Child Savings Account program will better prepare children to save for higher education options including college, vocational programs and other postsecondary educational options.

“Every child, regardless of their economic background, deserves the opportunity to start their financial future on the right foot,” said Representative Joe Crowley, Chairman of the Democratic Caucus and the author of federal legislation to create a national child savings program. “New York City’s Child Savings Account initiative is an undoubtedly sound investment that will put higher education within reach for countless families. I’m thrilled it will be kicking off its pilot program in Queens where so many of my constituents can benefit from the opportunity to give their kids the head start they need and deserve.”

“This groundbreaking public private partnership between the City of New York and the Gray Foundation will help to get our city’s kids on the right path by giving New York families a head start on saving for higher education. The de Blasio Administration wants every child to have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their economic situation or their zip code. With the generosity of our partners in the private sector, I know we can give students the support they need to reach higher and stretch farther,” said Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships Gabrielle Fialkoff.

United Federation of Teacher President Michael Mulgrew said, “Thousands of New York City public school kids will now get a firm footing for their academic future thanks to the Child Savings Account Program. I would like to thank again Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Menin for their efforts to ensure that our students – especially those from needy families – have increased opportunity to go to college.”

"We must do everything in our means to ensure equitable opportunities for all NYC's children and the City's Child Savings Account initiative does just that," said Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Anne Roest. ''Our agency is honored to be a partner in this very important endeavor and we are proud to be providing the technology behind this initiative to further Mayor de Blasio's vision for a just and equitable city."

“Child savings accounts create the foundation for our public school students to plan for and complete post-secondary education, which increases the equality of opportunity,” said Department of Consumer Affairs Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “By fostering savings starting in kindergarten, not only will our kids be exposed to and develop savings habits, but they will be better prepared to plan for their college education.”

“These accounts will serve as a tool to encourage both savings and the belief that post-secondary education is attainable across income levels. CEO will continue to be a partner in this exciting initiative that seeks to reduce poverty by broadening college access and success,” said Matthew Klein, Executive Director of the Center for Economic Opportunity and Senior Advisor for Service Innovation in the Mayor’s Office of Operations.

“Citi congratulates New York as the latest city to develop a child savings account program. The program will empower children and their families to save and turn their dreams of a college education into a reality,” said Bob Annibale, Global Director, Citi Community Development and Inclusive Finance. “Through Citi’s partnership with the City of San Francisco on the development of Kindergarten to College, the nation’s first universal child college savings account program, we have seen firsthand how cities can transform the college aspirations for children from all backgrounds.”

NY’s 529 College Savings Program offers an investment vehicle designed to help save for higher education. The City worked to create an innovative account structure to enable all students, regardless of circumstance, entering participating schools to be in a position to benefit from the program’s philanthropic dollars. Under this structure, the funds invested in the scholarship component will be held in an omnibus account, and each participating student will be automatically assigned a portion of the total regardless of the family’s income or immigration status for use in pursuing qualifying post-secondary education, subject to program guidelines.

The City worked with leading social policy research firm MDRC to conduct six focus groups of 60 low- to moderate-income parents in New York City. MDRC found that while families care deeply about their children having the opportunity to go to college and were excited to learn about 529 accounts, almost no participants were previously aware of the tool. Further, the City conducted data analysis to determine that in NYC, a child growing up in a neighborhood in the top 20 percent of income is 20 times more likely to have a 529 College Savings Direct account than a child growing up in a neighborhood in the bottom 20 percent of income.

The project, led by Commissioner Julie Menin, is supported by several City agencies including the Department of Education; Department of Information, Technology, and Telecommunications; Department of Consumer Affairs; Center for Economic Opportunity; and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

NYC Kids RISE plans to launch efforts to raise additional funds to support the ongoing costs of the initiative and to explore opportunities to scale.

Through a unique hybrid structure, students will be able to participate in both a scholarship component and a family savings component of the program. Both the scholarship and family savings components will be invested in NY’s 529 Direct Plan, so all funds will have the potential to benefit from compounding earnings. The family savings option will allow family members, relatives, and others to contribute to students’ education funds and have those funds be invested in a 529 plan.

Investments in the 529 investment program entail risk of loss. Any investment by family members or friends will be optional, in the sole discretion of the family members and friends.

“Too many of our city’s most promising students face tremendous financial barriers to attend college. I am thrilled that NYC School District 30 has been chosen for the pilot program of NYC's Child Savings Accounts initiative so that more families can save for their child’s education. This is a great step to ensure that no student’s education should be cut short because of their financial situation,” said Representative Carolyn B. Maloney.

“Congratulations to District 30 for being chosen as the pilot program for the NYC Child Savings Account Initiative” said Assembly Member Catherine Nolan, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee. “I would like to commend Mayor de Blasio, Deputy Mayor Buery, Commissioner Menin and Chancellor Fariña for developing this much needed program to help students save for their college education. A big thanks to our Long Island City Community including Bishop Mitchell Taylor and Claudia Coger for helping to improve our community".

“For high-school graduates considering a higher education, the cost of earning a degree is an overwhelming factor. They see friends and family still struggling to pay off student debt years after graduating from their university. NYC’s Child Savings Account eases that first leap onto the path of higher learning. I’m proud that students in my district, where so many immigrant families struggling with low wages live, will be among the first to make use of this important new tool as the pilot program launches in District 30. I thank NYC Kids RISE and the Gray Foundation for making this public-private partnership possible and giving low-income and working families the tools they need to secure a brighter future for tomorrow’s students,” said Assembly Member Francisco P. Moya.

"Providing students with financial tools and the benefits of long-term savings plans helps make college more attainable for our youth,” said City Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm. “All students should have the opportunity to attend college regardless of their economic status and this initiative is an investment in our children's future. I am thrilled that the pilot will be launching in School District 30 where many families struggle with the financial burden of college tuition. This initiative will help students achieve their full potential. I thank Mayor de Blasio, Commissioner Menin and the Gray Foundation for their efforts to prepare our students financially for college." 

Council Member Costa Constantinides said, “All New Yorkers deserve access to college degrees and a world-class education. That’s why I am proud to have the pilot program of our City’s Child Savings Accounts initiative in our school district. With this pilot and public-private partnership, parents will have more resources to save for college educations for their children. I thank Commissioner Menin, the Board of Directors of NYC Kids RISE, and Chancellor Fariña for their leadership on this issue.”

"Students with college savings are far more likely to attend and graduate from college," said City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. "This program will help give New York's children a greater opportunity to advance themselves and their families through higher education. I'm especially pleased that the pilot program will begin in School District 30, where I went to school, so that the families of Long Island City, Astoria, Sunnyside, and Woodside will have this extra assistance in sending their children to college."

“The Financial Clinic applauds the City for its adoption of one of the most innovative savings vehicles in the city’s history. Our financial coaches at Financial Empowerment Centers focus on long-term savings – like 529 accounts and Child Savings Accounts – as a critical part of building financial security. The City's accomplishment is an important step to help the city’s youngest and most financially vulnerable children find and fund a path to college," said Mae Watson Grote, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Financial Clinic.

“CCC has been a strong, longtime champion for children’s savings accounts. We know in New York City that the majority of public high school graduates report plans to attend college or a post-secondary program; yet, only about a half of our City’s young adults between 25 to 34 years of age go on to hold an Associate’s degree or higher. We also know from years of research, that even a small amount of savings can foster a child’s college-oriented identity and dramatically improve their likelihood of applying for and completing college. We applaud Mayor de Blasio’s administration and the Gray Foundation for taking an important step that addresses income inequality and improves outcomes for New York City’s children and families,” said Jennifer March, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Citizens’ Committee for Children of NY.

About Debra-Ellen Glickstein, Executive Director of NYC Kids RISE

Debra-Ellen Glickstein has spent nearly 20 years working with communities to expand economic opportunities. Previously, Glickstein served as the Executive Director of New York City's Office of Financial Empowerment, the first municipal office in the country focused on creating innovative financial products, programs and services to enable asset building and wealth creation for low income New Yorkers and neighborhoods. She has served as the Vice President of Strategy & Program Development at the New York City Housing Authority, where she led efforts to create and implement NYCHA's neighborhood and partnership-based resident services strategy. She is a co-founder and served as the founding Executive Director of Urban Upbound, a non-profit organization that supports public housing residents to achieve economic success through college counseling, financial planning, career training and job placement assistance.  She is also a co-founder and member of the Urban Upbound Federal Credit Union - a community-owned financial institution created to provide public housing residents in Western Queens with access to affordable and relevant financial services. She earned a B.A. with honors from Wesleyan University, an M.B.A. from the NYU Stern School of Business and M.P.A. from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Named a "40 Under 40 Rising Star" in New York City government and politics by City and State, Glickstein is a proud City Year alumnus and recipient of the Comcast Alumni Leadership Award, City's Year highest alumni honor. Glickstein is a 2016 BALLE Local Economy Fellow and the recipient of other honors, including the New York Mets & Fidelity Investments' Inspire the Future Award, Outstanding Community Contribution Award from the Long Island City YMCA, Outstanding Contribution to Woodside Houses, Outstanding Community Service Award to Queensbridge Houses, and selection as a Resident at the Harvard Innovation Lab, New York City Government Scholar and an Investors' Circle Venture Fellow.

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