Asset Building Financial Inclusion Working Paper

Saving for Post-Secondary Education in American Indian Communities: A Geospatial and Quantitative Analysis

A college education is critical to achieving financial stability in the United States. Empirical evidence linking college completion to higher incomes supports this assertion (Bergman, 2006). Every child should have the opportunity to obtain a post-secondary education and achieve financial stability. However, little is known about the practices and behaviors of American Indians when it comes to saving for post-secondary education. This pilot study is the first in this regard. There are two objectives for this study. The first is to assess spatially NC 529 College Savings Plan (NC 529 Plan or Plan) awareness and ownership among American Indian participants in North Carolina. The second is to identify significant indicators of saving for post-secondary education among participants. The indicators tested are income, child education expectations, homeownership, and credit card debt. Data for this study is from an 18-question survey instrument designed to learn more about saving for college among American Indians. The sample consists of 107 American Indian adults living in North Carolina. Findings indicate that Plan awareness in tribal and urban Indian communities is low. There is a relatively high degree of NC 529 Plan ownership among sample participants compared to 2007 NC 529 Plan ownership in general. The only significant indicator of saving for college is child education expectations. All other variables are not significant. The finding that income is not associated with saving is itself significant as there is an opposite finding in studies with non Native study participants. Policy recommendations and areas for further research are discussed.


Hertel, A. L., & Jäger, M. E. (2010). Saving for post-secondary education in American Indian communities: A geospatial and quantitative analysis (CSD Working Paper No. 10-21). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.