The city of Boston is investing in education by providing $50 to every kindergartner enrolled in public school to jump-start college savings funds.
In the new initiative, called Boston Saves, incoming kindergartners are automatically set up with a savings account for college or career training, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius announced on Monday, the first day of school. Each account will come with a deposit of $50 to "get the ball rolling," Walsh said in a video posted to Twitter.
The funds in the savings account will available after the student finishes high school, according to a statement from the city.
The city also is incentivizing families to continue adding to the accounts -- the more they add, the more the city will match.
"For example, if a family saves $25 for their child in a three-month period, Boston Saves will add another $5 to their child's account," the statement said. "All told, families can earn up to $65 in incentives for their child's Boston Saves account in the program's first year."
The program is "one of the ways" the city is bridging wealth gaps and focusing on financial empowerment in public school communities, Cassellius said.
"Research shows when kids have even a small amount of money set aside, they're three times more likely to go to college," Cassellius added. "Boston Saves is helping us show students from an early age their city supports them, and that they should dream big."
City officials cited a 2013 study published by Washington University in St. Louis that found low-income children who had less than $500 in an account dedicated to higher education still were three times more likely to enroll in college and four times more likely to graduate.
Boston Saves also provides resources such as financial education activities and peer support, according to the statement. About 75% of jobs in Boston require a college degree or some other form of post-secondary education.
During the pilot program that began in 2016, Boston Saves proved "to be an essential part of providing families with the tools to save for their children's post-secondary future," Walsh said in a statement.
Families of 1,600 public school students earned an additional $15,000 in incentives during the pilot program, according to the city. About 43% of eligible families participated.
Esmirna Soto, who enrolled in the pilot program for her son, said in a statement that participating "brought up important family discussions about college and financial planning early on."
"The experience has been great because the earlier we save, the more our child will benefit over time," she said. "He benefits by knowing that we are not only expecting him to attend college or some form of higher education, but that we are also financially planning for it."