The invitation-only forum, hosted by Missouri State Treasurer Clint Zweifel and the Center for Social Development (CSD), featured research findings, an overview of Missouri Child Development Account (CDA) programs, a discussion about how states facilitate CDA programs, and a presentation about account structure, support and sustainability.
Kicking off the forum, Zweifel thanked CSD Director Michael Sherraden and CSD Policy Director Margaret Clancy for providing the intellectual “footing” for CDAs and proof that the accounts are much bigger than their monetary values. When a family has a CDA, Zweifel said, the conversation among parents, children and teachers shifts from how to save for college to “What do I want to do when I grow up?”
Brown School Dean Mary McKay said it’s important to “erase as best we can” the burdens facing young people, and she praised Sherraden’s longtime work on building assets for all.
Forum participants included administrators of CDAs from state treasurers’ offices, agencies and foundations, along with the representatives from the forum’s sponsors, Ascensus College Savings and Vanguard Investments.
Sherraden told participants that they are doing the hard work of taking ideas from research and making them happen in the world. “The policy is being made by people like you,” he said.
Economic inequality is growing in America, Sherraden said, but children must reach their potential. “We’re working on strategies that can sustain the possibilities of children’s futures,” he said.
In a presentation about CSD’s SEED of Oklahoma Kids (SEED OK) experiment, Clancy, who leads the large-scale policy demonstration, said research shows that having modest college savings has positive nonfinancial impacts, including mothers’ improved expectations for children’s education. Having the SEED OK CDA also improved disadvantaged children’s early social-emotional development regardless of whether parents had saved, and it reduced maternal depressive symptoms, Clancy reported. Ensuring that all children have college savings is important because modest savings have financial and nonfinancial benefits for children and their families, she said.
Sarah Swoboda, Missouri deputy state treasurer, shared a list of 16 questions to help groups considering creating a CDA program. They explore, for example, who will administer the program, who legally owns the accounts, how many beneficiaries will be in the initial cohort, and parent education and involvement.