By Amy Miragliotta, Deputy Director of Operations, San Diego County DCSS
The County of San Diego DCSS (COSD DCSS) established a College Education Savings Account (CESA) team that has been working over the last twenty months to create a program to aid in the fight to end intergenerational poverty. In San Diego County’s child support program, 10,438 custodial and noncustodial parents were previously dependents on their parents’ cases. This trend of adults in child support cases who were formerly dependents is especially alarming among cases initiated by aided participants. In San Diego County, the percentage of both adults and children living in poverty increased from 9.6% of adults and 15.9% of children in 2005 to 14.2% and 18.9% respectively in 2014. Intergenerational poverty is influenced by a number of factors, with lack of education being chief among them. Educational opportunities for impoverished children is one key in breaking the cycle for low income families. Research shows that children who have $1 to $499 in education savings accounts are three times more likely to attend post–secondary institutions and four times more likely to graduate. Through this program, COSD DCSS believes we can help children within our caseload to be first generation college students.
The first optional plan, named the State Debt Reduction (SDR), has been submitted to State DCSS via “white paper” for review and permission to implement. This program works as a modified COAP offering two-to-one reduction of state owed arrears. For each dollar that is placed in a 529 college savings account for the minor dependent, two dollars will be reduced from their state owed arrears. The second proposed plan is to work with brand new case participants and educate at intake and establishment on the benefits of 529 college savings accounts and how a contribution of as little as $25 per a month can make a tremendous impact on their child. For this optional plan, COSD DCSS is working closely with the court commissioners to create and add language to court orders that will help to solidify a monthly payment to the 529 college savings account. This plan also includes match incentives that will help to reward targeted milestones for the CP, NCP, and dependent. COSD DCSS is working to solidify a grant to help financially support the match incentives.
In addition, COSD DCSS partnered with the San Diego Financial Literacy Center (SDFLC) and the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association–College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF). The SDFLC will provide a financial literacy component to our participants that will help them develop a strong foundation of practical money skills. The SDR program aims to empower families to contribute to the future successes of their children by alleviating the stress of paying for college. This optional program creates opportunities to pursue post-secondary education that can help break the poverty cycle for low-income families.