San Francisco’s Kindergarten to College Program Reaches $11 million in Savings with new research showing promising savings rates amongst low-income students and families

Kindergarten to College model has been replicated across the country, with 123 active College Savings Account programs reaching more than 1.2 million children in 39 states. California will launch the California Kids Investment and Development Savings (CalKIDS) Program in July, following a $2 billion investment by Governor Newsom.

Posted April 26, 2022

San Francisco, CA - Today, Governor Gavin Newsom, California Treasurer Fiona Ma, Mayor London Breed and Treasurer José Cisneros joined a class of 1st graders from Bryant Elementary School as they deposited the $11 millionth dollar into Kindergarten to College savings accounts. San Francisco’s Kindergarten to College (K2C) Program is the first universal Child Savings Account program in the country and is celebrating its belated 10th anniversary this week with the release of a new video and report.

“We started K2C so that every student in our public schools would know that they have a future worth saving for,” said San Francisco Treasurer José Cisneros. “More important than the money itself, $11 million in savings represents millions of conversations our families are having with their children about going to college.”

Founded in 2011 by then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Treasurer José Cisneros, K2C automatically opens a savings account seeded with $50 in public funds for every child entering kindergarten in SF’s public schools, putting students on a path to college from their first day of school. There are nearly 50,000 K2C participants, who as of today have $11 Million saved for post-secondary education. San Francisco’s K2C program has been replicated across the country, with 123 active College Savings Account programs reaching more than 1.2 million children in 39 states, including municipal programs in Oakland, Los Angeles and New York City, and statewide programs in Pennsylvania, Indiana and Maine.

“College savings accounts are transformational opportunities for millions of kids to be successful in college,” said Governor Newsom. “The program we created here in San Francisco has invested $11 million in thousands of kids’ futures, and we’re taking that promise of success statewide — creating a universal college savings account program, so every California student can be college ready, and providing up to $1,500 deposits for those kids most in need.”

K2C has demonstrated that universal and automatic children’s savings account programs are possible, effective, and scalable. In 2019, California created the CalKIDS program, a statewide universal CSA program for every baby born in California. Governor Newsom expanded the program in the 2021-2022 budget, with an investment of nearly $2 billion dollars. CalKIDS is expected to launch in July 2022. All babies born in the state will receive a CalKIDS account seeded with $25 and up to $75 in additional financial incentives. Additionally, all low-income 1st-12th graders will receive a CalKIDS account seeded with $500, plus up to an additional $1000 for students who are homeless or in foster care. Families will be able to link their CalKIDS accounts with K2C and most local college savings account programs.

“Efforts like this have helped public school students pave their way for college by having their own saving accounts and anticipating financial needs for higher education,” said Mayor London Breed. “As we continue to emerge from the global pandemic, we must continue to stand by our students to make sure they have the support and resources they need to succeed in their academic goals. I want to thank Governor Newsom for launching this program when he was Mayor, and Treasurer Cisneros for keeping it going strong.”

There are currently 15 local programs in California in nearly every region of the state, many of whom receive funding from the California Student Aid Commission, a state agency that has administered grant programs critical for expanding local capacity. Collectively these programs support more than 120,000 California children and hold approximately $20 Million for children’s college futures and will add an estimated 50,000 accounts in the coming year. Local programs work hand in hand with Scholarshare and will play a critical role in outreach and building trust with local communities. K2C outcomes highlight the importance of student and family engagement, which will require strong state and local partnerships to launch and grow the CalKIDS program.

“K2C’s impact on the CSA movement has been catalytic,” said Benita Melton, director of the Education Program at the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. “As the nation’s first municipal CSA program, K2C has expanded the postsecondary aspirations of children in San Francisco and modeled how communities can come together to bring this idea to scale. Its successes have captured the imagination of community and government leaders nationwide, and inspired dozens of replication efforts. At the Mott Foundation, we’ve been proud to support this pioneering work since the beginning and celebrate K2C’s achievements today.”

Twenty-three percent of families have started saving in their K2C accounts, and half of the families saving qualify for free or reduced price lunch. The K2C savings rate is almost eight times higher than the national college savings rate and does not account for SFUSD families that may be saving for college in a separate account. According to the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), less than three percent of U.S. families with children saved in a 529 plan or Coverdell Education Savings Account, and those who did tended to be wealthier than others. Families with these accounts had about 25 times the median financial assets of those without.

“Kindergarten to College is one of the earliest and most important CSA programs in the country and has served as a model for massive expansion of CSA programs in the years since its inception,” said William Elliott III, a professor of social work at the University of Michigan. “I began my research thinking about how small amounts of money saved for college can make a difference. What I have learned is, programs like K2C offer students and parents tangible hope, a stake in the future. With the City’s help they have been given a path for achieving a better future.”

K2C was designed based on research that found that saving even small amounts for college can improve the chances a student will attend college.  Students with a savings account in their name are up to seven times more likely to attend college than those without, with the largest effects among households of color, lower incomes, and lower parental education. Programs like K2C cultivate college-going identities. Savings is linked to increases in math scores among youth; better health and education outcomes; and, the development of a “future orientation.”

“I congratulate San Francisco both on the remarkable milestone of over 10 years of serving the city’s children through K2C and on its role in propelling the CSA movement—a movement that has now reached more than 1.2 million children and youth across the country,” said Gary Cunningham, President and CEO of Prosperity Now. “We are proud to have been a partner from the start of this successful program and to have seen how K2C has influenced countless officials across the country to launch their own initiatives to ensure that all children—especially those from low-income households—have a nest egg for their future.”

San Francisco’s program model is designed with the following core design features:

  1. Universal access ensures every child has an account and financial assets for their future.
  2. Automatic enrollment into free accounts removes the three most critical barriers for parents – inertia, cost and time required to complete paperwork.
  3. Families’ ability to contribute directly into their account, including in cash, allows all families to participate, including many low-income families who are unbanked.

When a student enters kindergarten in the San Francisco Unified School District, K2C automatically opens a deposit only savings accounts in the child’s name and deposits $50 in each account. For some SFUSD families, their account with K2C is their only formal bank account with a financial institution. K2C maintains its program accounts with Citibank.

“As the nation’s first publicly-funded, universal children’s savings account program, Kindergarten to College has demonstrated these programs can empower children of all backgrounds and advance economic opportunity for their families,” said Brandee McHale, Head of Community Investing and Development at Citi and President of the Citi Foundation. “We are proud to have played a role in developing a banking solution used by K2C and to help scale financial innovation and social impact through child savings account programs.”

Families with a K2C account can begin saving for post-secondary education immediately by going to a local Citibank branch, through direct deposit, mail, or via an online transfer. Students and families can access additional incentive dollars by engaging with their accounts to view activity and save.  Families also have the option to transfer funds into a qualified 529 account, such as the ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan run by the ScholarShare Investment Board, chaired by Treasurer Fiona Ma.

"This program has been instrumental in helping San Francisco public school students save for college,” said San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews. “By thinking about putting money in the bank as young as kindergarten, students and families continue through their educational journey knowing that college is possible for them, no matter who they are or where they come from."

The total amount saved by families in K2C has increased steadily year-over-year.  Despite the pandemic, in school year 2020-2021 families saved $690,000 dollars, an increase of fourteen percent over the previous year. In a report published today, K2C released promising data showing that providing higher incentives can spur savings and college aspirations for families who were least likely to save for college. In 2020, K2C launched the “I am the Future” equity incentive. K2C worked with SFUSD to align with their equity work to reduce the achievement gap, particularly amongst black students and families. K2C deposited an additional $150 in the accounts of all students in first and second grade in nine elementary schools and then allowed families the opportunity to earn an additional $300 by making two deposits of at least $5 into their accounts. 

“As an organization dedicated to ensuring that San Francisco K-12 students, especially those who would be first in their family to go to college, have the tools and support necessary to be able to get there, we are proud to be partners with the Kindergarten to College, since the beginning,” said Eddie Kaufman, CEO of Mission Graduates. “We know that every parent wants to support their children to have a future full of opportunities and a chance to succeed. The K2C accounts offer an easy and concrete way for parents and caregivers to provide that support.”

Despite launching at the outset of COVID just when many families were experiencing a once-in-a-generation economic shock, the approximately 1,000 families eligible for the “I am the Future” equity incentive now have $272,693.20 saved in their K2C accounts. Family engagement continues to grow, and in many cases exceeds engagement in other schools with much higher income families. The report contemplates additional steps San Francisco can take to advance equity by fostering transformational wealth building during childhood, such as seeding accounts with larger dollar investments for students below a certain income threshold.

“Every time we talk about K2C, it sparks a conversation about college,” says Nafy Flatley, mother of three students in SFUSD. “I hope that my kids’ future is bright, that they become very successful people, maybe who knows… the future Presidents of the United States.”

For more information about the K2C program, visit:


About the Office of Financial Empowerment

The Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) is a unique private-public partnership housed within the Office of the Treasurer & Tax Collector of San Francisco that convenes, innovates and advocates to strengthen economic security and mobility of all San Franciscans. For more than a decade, under the leadership of Treasurer José Cisneros, the OFE has engaged partners inside and outside City Hall to equip San Franciscans with knowledge, skills and resources to strengthen their financial health and well-being. At the same time, the OFE has leveraged what has worked on the ground to model what is possible across the country.