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Professor issues reports supporting savings to help kids reach college

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

LAWRENCE — A University of Kansas professor has issued the first of four reports outlining the role savings accounts play in college success and urging lawmakers to support creations of such accounts for children early in their lives.

William Elliott III, assistant professor of social welfare at KU, issued the series "Creating a Financial Stake in College" (pdf) through the New America Foundation and Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis.

"We should recognize the power of savings to influence college attendance and work to create opportunities for more children to succeed in college," Elliott said.

Elliott’s reports provide evidence that saving during childhood is strongly associated with positive educational outcomes. One example he has found is, when controlling for race, family income, parents’ education and academic achievement, students ages 17 to 23 who had childhood savings accounts are more likely to be enrolled in or graduated from college than peers who did not.

The reports present evidence relevant to large-scale policy proposals, such as the ASPIRE, America Savings for Personal Investment, Retirement and Education Act. The act would foster creation of savings accounts for citizens at birth. Children below set income levels would also receive a matching deposit. When children turn 18 they would be able to use the money, tax-free, for education, investment or retirement savings.

“Creating a Financial Stake in College” also stresses that not all children currently have equal access to savings. Establishing children’s savings accounts could reduce dependence on student loans and help get more students to college, helping create a more-educated, less debt-ridden workforce.

The four reports provide a foundation for the March 29-30 Assets and Education Research Symposium, co-organized by the KU School of Social Welfare and Center for Social Development, hosted at the Lawrence campus. KU is a national leader in asset development research, with a number of faculty members performing and publishing research in the field. Numerous international and domestic researchers in the field will be in attendance at the March symposium.

“"Professor Elliot's series of reports are a great example of the growing body of work by a number of faculty members in the school whose research includes studies of policies and programs designed to increase the social and economic well-being of children and families of modest means and their communities,” said Mary Ellen Kondrat, dean of the School of Social Welfare.

Three more reports in the series will be released one per week throughout January and will be available at the New America Foundation or Center for Social Development at Washington University.



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