Saving for college can be a challenge for anyone, but perhaps it can be more so for families who rely on a non-custodial parent for child support payments. About 60 percent of the families in the San Diego caseload are living at or below the poverty line. Education is one key factor that can help individuals out of poverty. San Diego is committed to aid in breaking the cycle of poverty and provide educational opportunities for children.
To help address this challenge, the San Diego County Department of Child Support Services (DCSS) implemented a college savings program called Parents Investing in Education (P.I.E.). San Diego is working with the State of California ScholarShare program that currently offers a match up to $250. In addition, San Diego DCSS worked with State DCSS to create a pilot program for PAA debt reduction. For some parents who might be in arrears to the state for past support, parents may qualify for a reduction of that debt as deposits are made into the child’s college savings account.
Research shows that it doesn’t even take an enormous savings to instill a college-bound mindset in children. A parent can deposit just $5 a month to start building the savings.
Children with $1 to $499 in college savings are three times more likely to attend post-secondary education and four times more likely to graduate from post-secondary education, according to statistics from Prosperity Now (formerly Center for Economic Development CFED).
Once enrolled in the program, a state-sponsored plan manager assists in setting up the account.
San Diego DCSS is still in the earliest stages of implementation, engaging in widespread advertising of the program to their customers. We have offered workshops onsite and partnered with local banking institutions to offer financial planning and financial literacy. Case managers will be talking to parents about the new program at each interaction. We are also developing a commercial to be shown online and in their office lobbies.
San Diego DCSS believes this is not only going to help parents build relationships and be engaged with their child, but it will also benefit their child’s future. Both parents will feel involved in the child’s future and the child will know their parents are interested in their educational success. This program is another effort to show the parents we serve that our department cares about their children’s future and not just their money. We hope this model can be replicated in other departments within the state.