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Re-Envisioning the CSA Field: From Small-Dollar to Large-Dollar CSAs

Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs), also called Child Development Accounts (CDAs) are provided through financial instruments. CSAs are asset-building accounts for children, usually dedicated for expenses associated with postsecondary education. While the design and implementation of CSA programs vary substantially, efforts that meet the accepted definition of what a Children’s Savings Account typically include most if not all of these key components: ● Opportunity to own a wealth-building account, either through a traditional deposit institution (such as a credit union or bank) or through a state 529 college savings plan. ● Initial seed deposit, to encourage account opening, jumpstart family saving, and/or foster greater balance growth. ● Savings incentives, such as matches for family deposits, rewards for recruiting contributions, and/or bonuses for saving regularly. ● Support for children’s academic and financial preparation for higher education, in the form of provision of account statements, college and career readiness activities, financial education, and/or efforts to promote early identification with the aspiration of college attendance. CSAs have been found to cultivate young children’s social and emotional health, competencies separately linked in research to stronger educational outcomes. CSAs also help parents to develop and sustain expectations of college; in turn, parents with these expectations are more likely to take actions that will support their children’s success in school.CSA research has often found greater effects on the academic preparation of lower-income or otherwise disadvantaged children than for children overall, findings which suggest that CSAs may help close achievement gaps. Other research has found that having educational assets can make a low- or moderate-income student up to three times more likely to enroll in and graduate from college.

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