Education

Salishan families can get help with college savings; deadline is Friday

The Tacoma Housing Authority has launched a Children’s Savings Account program for families in the Salishan housing development.
The Tacoma Housing Authority has launched a Children’s Savings Account program for families in the Salishan housing development. Staff file, 2006

Families in Tacoma’s Salishan housing development can take advantage of a new children’s savings program that can help save money for college expenses.

But they need to act quickly. Deadline to return applications is Friday

The Tacoma Housing Authority, which developed Salishan on the city’s Eastside, recently launched its Children’s Savings Account program for Salishan families.

It offers seed money to start the accounts and matching contributions for families. There are two components, one for kindergarten students and another for middle schoolers. Each has its own rules.

KINDERGARTEN SAVINGS ACCOUNT

The program for the youngest students is for kids who enroll in kindergarten at Lister Elementary School — located near Salishan — or any Tacoma Public Schools kindergarten.

It’s also open to kindergarten students who attend Lister who are not Salishan residents.

The program is available to Salishan families regardless of whether they rent from the Housing Authority, own their home in Salishan or rent from owners.

For each child who registers, the Housing Authority will open a Heritage Bank savings account and deposit $50. The authority is the account custodian, controlling withdrawals.

Families can deposit money and the Housing Authority will match family deposits of up to $400 each year until a child completes fifth grade.

The maximum match over the six years: $4,800.

MIDDLE SCHOOL ACCOUNTS

The second stage is for Salishan youngsters who enroll as sixth graders at First Creek Middle School, the middle school near Salishan.

At this stage, rather than matching contributions, the program becomes incentive-based, rewarding student effort.

Sixth-graders meet with a school-based counselor and set up goals, everything from improving school attendance to raising grades to taking college-prep courses.

Another goal is signing up for the state College Bound Scholarship program, a state effort that promises financial aid to low-income students who sign up in middle school and fulfill other requirements.

“We tried to tie the incentives to data points that are collected by Tacoma Public Schools,” said Andrea Cobb, who is overseeing the program for the Housing Authority.

Each time a student meets a goal, the program deposits money into a savings account. Students can earn up to $700 a year through high school graduation.

THE PAYOFF

Even though Washington’s College Bound scholarship covers tuition, students often have trouble paying other college costs, especially housing.

Kindergarten students who enroll now and participate at the maximum level with their families can accrue $9,700 upon graduation from high school.

The money becomes available only when the student enrolls in a qualified college or other post-secondary program. The money can be used only for the costs of college attendance, including housing.

Tacoma Public Schools, a partner in the program, will offer financial education for students, and the program also will offer similar training for parents.

Money for the savings program comes from grants to the Housing Authority and from flexible Housing Authority funding. The agency has funds to launch the program this year and in 2016.

It is raising funding for subsequent years.

“We won’t launch a new cohort without the funding,” Cobb said.

The savings program idea has been percolating at the Housing Authority for several years, she said. It’s based in part on a model developed by the Washington, D.C.-based Corporation for Enterprise Development.

Eventually, Cobb said, the Housing Authority would like to expand the program citywide.

According to the agency, research shows that youngsters with college savings accounts do better in school — and are more likely to attend college and graduate — than those who lack the resources.

They also fare better in the realm of social and emotional development.

HOW TO APPLY

Forms are available from schools, and families can drop off completed forms at the Housing Authority, 902 S. L St.; Lister Elementary School, 2106 E. 44th St.; or First Creek Middle School, 1801 E. 56th St.

The forms are available in English, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Korean.

For more information: Talk to your child’s school or contact the Housing Authority at 253-207-4400 or online at tacomahousing.net.

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