Financial Capability Financial Inclusion Working Paper

At-Risk Children’s College Aspirations and Expectations: The Potential of College Savings Accounts

For many children, especially minority and low-income children, attending college is a genuinely desired but elusive goal.  Research on aspirations and expectations provides a way to understand the gap between what children desire and what they actually expect to happen. This study examines the potential role of children’s college accounts (CCAs) as a way to reduce the gap between aspirations and expectations among at-risk children. I find that only 39 percent of children without savings for college expect to attend college; there is an aspirations/expectations gap of 41 percentage points among children with CCAs. Moreover, children with a CCA are five percent more likely to expect to attend college than children without a CCA. It appears that when the financing of college is perceived to be under the child’s control, college attendance becomes a more plausible reality. Children with CCAs are not only more likely to attend college; they also perform better in school.

Subsequent publication: Elliott, W. (2009). Children’s college aspirations and expectations: The potential role of Children’s Development Accounts (CDAs). Children & Youth Services Review, 31(2), 274–283. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2008.07.020

Project: I Can Save


Elliott, W., III. (2008). At-risk children’s college aspirations and expectations: The potential of college savings accounts (CSD Working Paper No. 08-17). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.