OPPORTUNITY FOR IMPACT
Almost 1.6 million children under the age of 18 live in Indiana, comprising nearly one fourth of our state’s population . For youth of any socioeconomic status, having a college savings account is a primary indicator in shaping college-bound identity. Even accounts with small balances matter. Low- to moderate-income youth who hold an account designated for education with a balance of between $1 and $499 are four and a half times more likely to graduate from college than similar youth without an account . A dedicated account for educational savings fosters a child’s development of an identity that "people like me go to college."
Yet only 14.4 percent of Indiana youth under the age of 18 have a 529 college savings account and are saving for their future . Given the positive outcomes associated with educational savings, and how it contributes to a child’s identity and likelihood to pursue education beyond high school, the opportunity to make an impact by increasing the number of youth who have savings is enormous. That’s why we’re making a Promise to youth in communities across the state; a Promise to help support them along their path toward post-secondary education.
CREATING COLLEGE-GOING CULTURE
The Promise shifts the conversation about post-secondary education from one that takes place in high school to one that begins in kindergarten. We are making a promise that any child can pursue success beyond high school. Through The Promise, youth begin to dream about their future, explore college and careers, and start their educational savings as early as kindergarten, while adults in their community encourage them along the pathway toward success.
In the classroom: Beyond educational savings, The Promise creates excitement for youth about their future. Youth participate in teacher-designed activities with age-appropriate objectives about education beyond high school. Students learn about what college is like, by virtually exploring their teacher’s alma mater or a Q&A with a college student in their classroom. They dress up as a career they would like to pursue, learn vocabulary associated with college, and dream about their futures.
In the community: The Promise helps communities come together to support youth as champions. Champions are adults in the community who affirm a child’s aspirations through encouragement and financial investments. Youth ask their champions to contribute $5.29 to their college savings account. The Promise then leverages community dollars to provide a match for the monies that students raise. Each child who raises $25.00 from his or her champions receives a community matching deposit.
On the campus: The efforts to build hope both in and out of the classroom include a "Walk Into My Future" event on the campus of a local university. Youth visit the campus and explore college life through interactive stations created by faculty and student volunteers. The "Walk Into My Future" event gives families and community champions a chance to celebrate youth.
Only a holistic approach to creating college-going culture will increase the number of youth achieving education beyond high school. Adults must hold high expectations for youth success and provide support to help youth achieve their dreams.
The family is where any true expectations of college and its financial reality exist. The Promise streamlines the process for families to start a college savings account. During school and community events, caring adults can reinforce the message that they believe every child has a bright future and families should be looking forward to the day when their elementary student will graduate from high school and continue to pursue their educational goals. The Promise helps kickstart family savings with a seed deposit of $25 from a local sponsor. Through The Promise and this intentional enrollment process, thousands of families have opened 529 college savings accounts to date.
 Indiana Youth Institute KIDS COUNT® Data Book
 Elliott, W. (2013). Small-dollar children’s savings accounts and children’s college outcomes. Children and Youth Services Review, 35(3), 572–585.