Boston Saves expansion helps BPS kindergarteners pay for higher ed

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Boston Saves expansion helps BPS kindergarteners pay for higher ed

Boston Saves is an expansion of a three-year pilot program that will help BPS families budget for their children's higher education plans.

Boston Saves is an expansion of a three-year pilot program that will help BPS families budget for their children's higher education plans.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Fritzsche, "School Bus" Creative Commons (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/?ref=ccsearch&atype=html)

Boston Saves is an expansion of a three-year pilot program that will help BPS families budget for their children's higher education plans.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Fritzsche, "School Bus" Creative Commons (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/?ref=ccsearch&atype=html)

Photo Courtesy of Paul Fritzsche, "School Bus" Creative Commons (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/?ref=ccsearch&atype=html)

Boston Saves is an expansion of a three-year pilot program that will help BPS families budget for their children's higher education plans.

Jayden Khatib, news correspondent

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This program is an extension of an existing three-year pilot program active in 17 BPS schools. The program entails that each kindergarten student is given a savings account with $50 to begin saving toward their post-secondary education, whether that be college or trade school. 

The program could be especially beneficial for low-income and first-generation college students who often experience extra financial burdens to access higher education opportunities.

“College is super expensive, and there is financial aid, but sometimes it doesn’t cover everything. Students have to figure out how to cover whatever gaps might exist,” said Diane Perez, an assistant academic specialist for Foundation Year, a program that provides extra support to first-year students from Boston. “Having money while you’re in college is important. Making sure that if you’re commuting, you can afford your bus pass, if you’re living on campus affording going home, affording clothes, affording you time, affording entertainment.” 

The school system made improvements during the pilot program. Boston Saves senior program manager, Gosia Tomaszewska, said the key to the program’s continued success is the family engagement model. 

The program gives families incentives to earn “Boston Saves Dollars.” Activities such as reading to their children at least 20 days per month give families a chance to earn up to $20 per year. Beyond financial incentives, Boston Saves and its partners also provide financial literacy education for families and students to guide them in budgeting more efficiently. 

“We’re taking an intergenerational approach,” Tomaszewska said. “We’re trying to get to the kids, but also to the parents.”

Another key part of the family engagement model is the Family Champions initiative. Family Champions are parents and family members of BPS students who volunteer to help families navigate the resources available to them.

“We try to give the information to them so that they understand the importance of the money,” said Elsa Flores, a Family Champions coordinator and BPS parent. “When we talk between us, it’s easier.”

Flores said the Family Champions’ ability to connect with the families whom they work with on a cultural level is especially important, as some parents don’t trust the school system with so much personal information.

“They see the money and think it’s not true and then don’t get the incentives,” Flores said. 

“Especially when we need to link the accounts, especially the child’s [custodial savings] account, it’s difficult because it’s so much information [to give the school system].”

However, not everyone is convinced that the program will be effective in helping families save for their children’s post-high-school graduation plans.

“When you live on a day-to-day kind of basis, how are you going to get that money to have even $50 to save for your child?” said Hermuna Taib, a fourth-year student at Northeastern and former Foundation Year scholar who graduated from East Boston High School. “That new program is cool. It sounds great, but for low-income people, I’m not sure it would work.”

Even with all of the existing support to encourage families to save, the people involved in the program understand that budgeting for their children’s higher education plans may not be feasible.

“College is very expensive. What we provide won’t come close to the full amount,” Tomaszewska said. “It’s about making sure that students know that there are people supporting them.”