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Should city governments help pay for students’ higher education?

The City of San Francisco is taking a hands-on approach to helping families make higher education affordable for their children.

The city has teamed up with EARN, a California-based nonprofit, to develop the Kindergarten to College program, which will start trust accounts for kindergartners. One quarter of the kindergartners now enrolled in a city public school will get $50 – $100 if they qualify for the federal government’s free or reduced-priced lunch program – deposited in a trust account set up by the city. Next year, the program will be expanded to 50 percent of the kindergarteners, and by the third year, every student. The program will cost the city $200,000 in the first year, and $400,000 of next year’s budget already is earmarked for the program.

San Francisco is not the first or only city to develop a progressive education policy. In 1647, the colonial city of Boston created the first public school system. The federal government also has always been involved. Congress enacted the GI Bill in 1944 to give grants for education to World War II veterans while the Higher Education Act allocated money for higher education to lower-income families.
“I believe that every single child should be born not necessarily into wealth, but into opportunity,” San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said. “Once a mind is stretched, it can never go back.”

What’s next is up to the students’ parents. The city recommends that parents start saving money, even $10 or $5 at a time, and putting it in their child’s account. EARN will then match the savings with the assistance of corporate sponsors such as Citi and JP Morgan Chase and trusts such as the Ford Foundation and the Levi Strauss Foundation. If at the end of the year, a student manages to save $100, EARN will match that amount, doubling how much the student has saved for college.

The program’s supporters hope to show that saving a little at a time can yield a big payoff in the long run. “We’re going to work with the families so they can see that if they could do just $5 a month, or $10 … that’s going to result in literally thousands of dollars after 12 or 13 years,” city Treasurer Jose Cisneros said.

Not everyone is in favor of the program. Citing a historic $483 million budget deficit, city supervisor Sean Elsbernd is skeptical of creating the program when the city is in considerable debt. “I doubt now is the right time to create a new general fund entitlement program,” Elsbernd said. He argues that the program already faces a funding shortfall and that the city might not be able to pay for it in coming years, giving false hope to families in need.

What do you think?

What do you think of the Kindergarten to College program? Do you think it will encourage parents to start saving for their children’s higher education? What would happen if the city cannot afford to pay for the program in the coming years? Join the discussion and let us know what you think!
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Ledyard High School
I believe that parts of the EARN program are appropriate and will be beneficial to the students, however there are some aspects that are asking too much of the city. Beginning a trust fund for students for $50-100 is the key part of the EARN plan. By doing this it will open up student and parent's minds to beginning to saving money for college. Also because the money is going into a trust fund it will pick up interest so the school initially pays $50-100 but comes out with more money. If more students have more money then more will go to college and be educated which will help our country. However, I think that the city should not have to match the amount of money that is put into each student's account. Although it would be a good initiative to get parents to begin saving, it would cost the town a fortune. At this point, our country is having economic troubles and is already having to lay-off teachers due to budget cuts. Therefore, even though it would be very nice of the town to provide money for all of the students, there is not enough money for that part of the plan. The EARN plan does have a very good idea, however it is expecting too much to be done by the town.

I strongly believe that the Kindergarten to College program is a very good idea and it would be very beneficial to young children and their future education. Not everyone is lucky enough to have some kind of wealth, and it may not even be a reasonable idea to send their child to college when they are older. This is out of the child's hands and is very unfair to him/her, for they will be following in their parents footsteps and won't be able to live the best life possible. By encouraging parents to save just a tiny bit of money every month, they will be able to double their savings every year with the help of EARN. During their child's elementary school and high school years, with the help of EARN, parents will be able to save thousands of dollars. And with even more help with potential scholarships, their child will be able to attend college. Ultimately, this program will provide more opportunities to children to go off to college, even if financially the dream seems unrealistic.


NCCHS, Indiana


Mr. Frank/ Northeast High, Philadelphia, Pa
I do think city governments should help pay for higher eduation for students. This helps students become more qualified for jobs with high position, that need high levels of education. Less people would be umemployed if higher education was helped paid for. I think this will help our economy in the long run. Every child should have the opportunity to become successful and wealthy if not already grown up into it. For some of us it is very hard growing up and poor neighborhoods and all we want to become is something in life. This brings hope for many futures. Everyone doesnot have the money to pay for more education after high school. So will the government help those in need?


Sidney High, Sidney, MT
I don't think that the cities government should get involved with paying for kids colleges. Because what if a student goes to a expensive school and then drops out half way through the school year. there went a lot of money down the drain. And like megan said its gunna put cities into debt and thats not a good thing. It should be the families deal not the cities. The city needs to spend their money on repairing things.


Krissa J
Sidney High School, Sidney, MT
I don't think the city government should get involved in helping families pay for college. There are many other ways like grants, scholorships, and more that a child can use to get him/herself to college. I think going to college should be earned and not just given to someone who may or may not have worked for it.


SHS, Sidney,Mt
i think it would help the families that struggle and work hard just to keep the bills paid, afford college. Not everyone has the money to go to college or some don't wanna get loans and be in debt when they get out of college.


Sidney High School, Sidney, MT
I think that it is a good idea and that every person should have the opportunity to go to college, but if it is going to put the country or cities even more in debt then we need to find a better way to fund this idea.


Schuylerville Central School, Schuylerville, NY
College should not be simply the next step after high school. A college education should be highly respected as it once was but now because of policies like this, the system is completely watered down and meaningless. Going back to the days of a respected degree helped to restore the natural order and allow for less competition in the work place. Credentials come from hard work and natural talent and if you possess neither the ability to work hard or innate gifts, than you should not have a guarenteed opportunity at college.

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Newsom seeks college accounts for kindergartners
San Francisco Chronicle

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