April 2021

Your Baby May Have a College Savings Account

Whether You Know It or Not…

By Suki Wessling

You may have received the letter and tossed it, thinking it was junk mail. You may have gotten a flyer at your baby’s birth, but who can keep track of things when there’s a new baby in the house? But in any case, if your baby was born after December 31, 2020 and you are a resident of Santa Cruz County, they qualify for up to a $50 gift towards their higher education.

It’s all thanks to Santa Cruz Seeds, a partnership between Santa Cruz Community Ventures, the County, the Office of Education, and a host of other agencies that saw the potential in this simple idea.

“Research shows that children who have savings for college are more likely to go to college, and more likely to graduate,” explains Maria Cadenas, Executive Director of Santa Cruz Community Ventures.

The germ (or should we say seed?) of the idea was planted four years ago, as a way to capitalize on growing research on public health. Although programs that directly target the health of families and children are very effective, research has found that knowledge has a huge effect on behavior. Just knowing that they have a college savings account primes a child to look forward to higher education. And that looking forward has a profound effect on public health.
Cadenas remembers helping a mom access her baby’s account through the online portal.

“The mom stopped in the middle of learning how to open the portal. She looked at her baby and she said, ‘This is for you. You don’t have to be like me’.”

Maria Cadenas stresses, however, that the parents most likely to benefit from this program aren’t simply slackers. “This is a working mom who didn’t get to college,” she explains. “This is a mom who has worked hard and is already contributing. The idea of this account gave her so much hope for her daughter.”

How can you access your baby’s account? First, give them time to get it set up. Then go to the Parent Portal at SantaCruzSeeds.org. You will need the Registrant Number from your child’s birth certificate, and that’s all!

All accounts will be seeded with up to $50, depending on household income. And once the account is active, families can continue to contribute. If families choose not to use the account, no problem. The money will be returned to the system once the child ages out. And families who don’t want free money are free to opt out of the program entirely.

Cadenas points out that 50% of the population of Watsonville is unbanked, and it’s pretty much impossible to save for college without a bank account. Families with means can also donate to the program, and the many agencies that support it will be watching to see the effect in years to come.

For more information: Visit SantaCruzSeeds.org.

Suki Wessling is a local writer and teacher who raised two Santa Cruz kids. Read more at www.SukiWessling.com.

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