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A Big City’s Investment in Students is Paying Off

A Big City’s Investment in Students is Paying Off

Homes in San Francisco.

Talk about a long-term financial plan! A dozen years ago (as of 2023), the city of San Francisco became the first to create an automatic college fund for students in the city’s public schools. And this year, 12 years after the program was first initiated, the students who were in kindergarten in 2011 have now graduated and are heading to college.

The city’s Kindergarten to College program (K2C), as the city’s website describes, was “the first universal Child Savings Account program in the country. Founded in 2011 by Mayor Gavin Newsom (now Governor) and Treasurer José Cisneros, K2C automatically opens a savings account seeded with $50 in public funds for every child entering kindergarten in SF’s public schools, putting students on a path to college from their first day of school.”

The program was critical in getting more kids into college, too. There’s research out there that shows that kids with savings accounts are approximately seven times more likely to attend a college or university than those who do not.

As for how the program works, back in 2011, students who were then roughly five years old had a bank account opened in their name by the city itself, and $50 was deposited in it. There are now 52,000 such accounts, according to reporting from the San Francisco Chronicle. With the first cohort of students graduating in 2023, those savings accounts contained a balance of more than $1,400 — not a huge amount of money, and certainly not enough to pay for a college education.

But it’s something. 

And there are some important caveats, too. The money, derived from taxpayer funds when it’s first deposited, can’t be withdrawn unless it’s used for educational expenses after high school — the city of San Francisco actually oversees it to make sure that happens.

But overall, the whole point is to get kids thinking about money at a young age — just like Money Vehicle! While Money Vehicle focuses on financial literacy courses for high school students (mostly), San Francisco’s idea to get kids’ minds centered on money, and to allow them to watch it grow over time, provides an invaluable lesson that students in other areas are missing out on.

The Money Vehicle lesson

There’s a lot to unpack from San Francisco’s experimental program. Obviously, taxpayers in many parts of the country wouldn’t be as open to a program like this one, but it does appear to be paying dividends. We’ll need to watch and wait to see what happens as more cohorts graduate and put that money to use.

Again, though, there are a lot of lessons to be learned. Students were able to watch their savings compound, to think more deeply about how money grows and how inflation can eat away at it, and to consider how that money can be used to help pay for their education. This would likely all be beneficial to students nationwide.

These lessons are all critical to Money Vehicle’s mission of helping high school students learn financial literacy, too. We map to states’ individual guidelines and mandates. We provide teachers with supporting materials and backup. And we’re open to constructive feedback to make sure our course is the best in the country.

Like the city of San Francisco, we’re learning as we go — but the mission is the same: Help teach more young people the language of money, and the importance of financial literacy!

Check out the Money Vehicle textbook — you can find it here on Amazon. And if you like what you see, you can get more content sent directly to your inbox! Sign up for the Money Vehicle Movement Newsletter!

And check out our white paper: “Strategies for Increasing Financial Literacy Rates Among High School and College Students”

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