Program gets students geared up for college
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, June 14, 2012 08:06
A new federal program will measure the impact of savings accounts on impoverished, college-bound high-school students. The project, announced by the U.S. Department of Education at the end of May, will use $8.7 million from a Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs project. The project is a federal initiative that aims to prepare impoverished middle- and high-school students for college by providing important knowledge and necessary funds.
The program, called the College Savings Account Research Demonstration Project, will be part of GEAR UP. Students will receive $200 to start up a savings account, and the program will match their savings month by month over the next four years. The students can then use the money for any institution of higher education after they graduate from high school.
Researchers will also use a control group of students without savings accounts to compare the effects. The Department of Education aims to help 10,000 ninth-grade students save more than $1,000 for college.
“I feel like it’s pretty worthwhile,” senior business administration student John Giarratana said. “Some students will probably go out and get a job and bank on this. It sounds like a lot of people will go for it.”
Giarratana lamented that they didn’t start this program sooner, as he would have taken advantage of it if he could.
“Students will probably find loopholes and get help from the parents. A lot of parents would help the students out, especially since it’s free money.”
In September 2011, the University of Kansas published the results of a study that determined savings accounts increased the likelihood of children of low-income families going to college. The study observed children and their families’ attitudes about college after community organizations deposited between $500 and $1,000 in their accounts. Deborah Adams, one of the researchers involved, said that about 80 percent of the parents had more positive outlooks on their children’s futures after putting money away.
“We’ve found that it’s not necessarily the amount that’s saved," Adams said. "When you have savings, people start to do some mental accounting and find ways to put money aside. Parents at all socio-economic levels want to see their kids do well.”
Senior history major Frank Gradl likes the idea of the project, but he worries about the timing.
“I think it’s a neat little experiment,” he said. “I’m not quite sure now is the best time to be doing such an experiment, considering we owe millions of dollars in debt every day. But I think it’s pretty important.”
Gradl believes that although more people are going to college, a lot of students don’t have that option after graduation; instead they have to look for jobs to support themselves and their families. And the troubles don’t stop after they finally make it to college.
“Some families aren’t going to be able to support each other. The best thing a college student can do is find a job and start putting [their earnings] in that [savings] account,” Gradl said.
As part of GEAR UP, another of the project’s goals is to educate students on managing their finances and using their savings accounts to prepare for any economic hardship.
“When you have so much debt [in college], it’s kind of scary,” said Teryn Pulka, a senior hospitality management major. “I didn’t start saving for college until my senior year of high school. It’s one thing to save money, but a lot of people go to college and spend their money right away. If they have the proper tools and guidelines on spending their money, that could really help them.”
Pulka notes that it’s always good to have savings tucked away for unexpected emergencies.
“Everyone has those things like tuition and rent that you can plan for, but there are unexpected things that pop up. Your car breaks down, you have to fly home because of a family emergency, things like that. Having that extra cushion can really save you in the long run.”
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