2018 News

Forum focuses on expanding access to 529 college savings plans

More than 65 invited guests from 18 states and the District of Columbia attended a lively Child Development Account (CDA) Forum in late July at the Brown School of Social Work.

The Center for Social Development (CSD) and Missouri State Treasurer Eric Schmitt, who oversees Missouri’s 529 college savings plan, hosted the event. Officials from state and local governments, nonprofit organizations, and 529 plan program and asset managers gathered to learn about the latest research results and to exchange ideas about how to expand access to or implement CDAs in their cities, counties and states.

“Because of your work, CDAs are now a reality: The idea of asset building is becoming mainstream in social policy,” CSD Director Michael Sherraden said in a video to welcome participants.

Treasurer Schmitt said he was happy to see “national leaders from across the country exchanging ideas, what we can do better, how we can reach out to more folks.”

CSD Policy Director Margaret Clancy agreed. “It’s really important to take this opportunity to share information with each other.” Her presentation and related panel discussed how to take CDAs to scale using 10 key policy design elements, which were modeled in the SEED for Oklahoma Kids Experiment.

Other presentations focused on 529 plan program managers’ perspectives, the impact of tax reform on CDA programs, Pennsylvania’s recent statewide adoption of a universal CDA policy, family savings, and CDA success stories.

“It’s really a great community of folks working on these programs, and I’m glad we’re now part of this world,” said Jack Stollsteimer, Pennsylvania’s deputy treasurer for consumer programs.

The idea for Child Development Accounts (CDAs) began about 30 years ago, when Sherraden first began to propose that social policy should focus not just on income for consumption, but also on building assets for development.

“As everyone in this room knows, people need assets so they can plan realistically for the future, and make investments to reach life goals,” he said. “This is especially true for the poorest and most disadvantaged families.”

Since inclusive and lifelong asset building was proposed, the concept has progressed from theory to testing to policy and practice. “There is a great deal of innovation,” Sherraden said. “We have a new CDA policy enacted in Pennsylvania, a CDA demonstration starting in New York City, and a new CDA policy in Taiwan. Yes, this work is also international!”