SeedMA: Taking Massachusetts’ CSA Program to Scale
Beginning in 2020, approximately 70,000 families a year will have the opportunity to join Massachusetts’ new statewide Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program, SeedMA Baby. Every child born or adopted by Massachusetts residents will be eligible to receive a $50 seed deposit when families open a UFund 529 college savings account through the SeedMA Baby program.
This policy is grounded in the results of the SeedMA pilot program, launched in the fall of 2016 by State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg. SeedMA offered CSAs with $50 seed deposits to kindergarteners in Worcester and Monson. Evaluation results from the first two years of the SeedMA pilot highlight progress families are making to build dedicated savings for postsecondary education and to strengthen educational expectations for their children’s futures. Learnings from the pilot have also helped our team at the Treasurer’s Office determine the most effective method for scaling the program to reach every child, in every community, across the state.
Here are three key findings from the pilot:
Grassroots Engagement Fosters Trust and Connection
As part of the SeedMA pilot, we built relationships with 34 public elementary schools, strategically partnered with more than 60 community-based organizations and trained 50 partner staff to act as trusted ambassadors to reach families from every corner of the pilot communities. Thanks to these partnerships, the SeedMA pilot successfully engaged many kindergarten families.
However, we quickly realized that Massachusetts’ decentralized school system would create barriers to reaching every family in the state. As part of SeedMA Baby, we plan to lead an equally robust grassroots effort in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and other entities within the state health and social services systems, allowing us to engage with families from the moment children are born or adopted through a variety of trusted touchpoints.
Families Will Save When Given the Opportunity
According to evaluation results, 88 percent of parents participating in the SeedMA pilot say it is important to them to save for their child’s future education. However, 65 percent had not saved for their child’s education prior to opening their SeedMA account. Many parents were looking for a way to start saving when they learned about SeedMA and said the $50 seed deposit gave them the push they needed. Thirty-three percent of families who opened accounts have made contributions. We will continue to offer families high-quality financial education programming to help them maneuver the 529 account and build a culture centered on saving for the future.
An Inclusive Approach Increases Accessibility
The SeedMA pilot also highlighted the importance of removing barriers to ensure families can easily access the benefits of the CSA program. To that end, we are working with program partners to simplify enrollment and participation in the program simpler. We will also continue to meet families where they are by partnering with trusted entities to inform them of the benefits of saving early for their child’s post-high school education. Finally, by working closely with other CSA partners across the Commonwealth, such as Inversant and Boston Saves, we will create a statewide model that is both accessible and community-driven.
Potential is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. SeedMA Baby will strive to build opportunity, savings and hope for every child in Massachusetts. Visit SeedMAbaby.org to view the statewide CSA program’s press release, one-pager and FAQs.
To receive ongoing information about the children’s savings field, sign up for the Campaign for Every Kid’s Future newsletter at savingsforkids.org.