LOS ANGELES - A program to give first-grade students in Los Angeles a savings account with a $50 seed deposit was expanded to include all Los Angeles Unified School District first graders, city and county officials announced Monday, calling it the largest program of its kind in the U.S.
The Opportunity L.A. program began in Spring 2021 for first-grade students at select high-need LAUSD schools. It was expanded this spring to automatically enroll every first-grade student at all 519 LAUSD elementary schools.
"Too many children simply can't afford higher education," said Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez. "Because of the work we've done here and the funds we've invested, 44,363 children can now plan for a future that includes higher education. I'm very proud of this partnership and I cannot wait to see what these children achieve."
Along with the $50 seed deposit, families who file their taxes with Los Angeles' Free Tax Prep program this year can receive a dollar-for-dollar Tax Time Savings match of up to $25. Unhoused first-grade students are also eligible for additional savings rewards through the program.
"This historic program does more than give kids and families a financial boost toward making college more affordable and accessible -- it also instills a college-going mindset in our students from an early age," said LAUSD School Board Member Nick Melvoin.
The program is administered by the Los Angeles Community Investment for Families Department. Officials hope it will be an effective tool to reduce educational and economic inequality, noting research that found that children -- regardless of their background -- are up to seven times more likely to attend college if they have a savings account.
"The Community Investment for Families Department is charged with ending intergenerational poverty and is proud to administer Opportunity LA, now in its 2nd year," said Abigail Marquez, the general manager of the Community Investment for Families Department. "This savings account program will help break down barriers to postsecondary education and connect families to additional financial empowerment programs available in our region, creating an immediate and long-term positive impact for Angelenos."
The program is funded by the city, county and state, and the savings accounts are with Citibank and uses the Citi Start Saving system.
"Opportunity L.A. is not only preparing families for success, it's helping us achieve our shared goal of alleviating poverty and creating a more equitable LA," said L.A. County Board of Supervisors Chair Holly Mitchell. "This program will help even the playing field for those most in need so that pursuing post-secondary education is within reach for more children regardless of how much their family earns. I look forward to the impact this historic investment will have on the lives of our children and the future of Los Angeles County."
People can learn more about the program at opportunityla.com.
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