LANCASTER, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – In Lancaster, piggy banks are helping plant the seeds of college dreams, especially when the school district chips in $50 just to get families started. The "Dollars for College" program rolled out this week intending to get kindergarten students thinking about college, and parents saving for it early.
"Family and friends can contribute to the accounts. The kindergarten students actually have piggy banks that they're going to take home with them," said Lancaster ISD Asst. Supt. Pamela Brown. "So whether it's a birthday; neighbor or uncle just wants to contribute a $1 or $5 to that piggy bank, parents can then take that money and put it in an account and get matching funds from the program."
The district recently won a $50,000 HEB Excellence award and instead of using the winnings to spruce up buildings or buy computers, Superintendent Elijah Granger decided to invest in students' futures, instead.
The district will donate $50 for every kindergarten student whose parents open a 529 college savings account. Events will be held on all elementary school campuses in the next couple of weeks to teach parents about the savings plans and to help them sign up.
"We want students to have the mindset of not 'will I go to college?' but, 'where am I going to college?'" said Assistant Superintendent Brown.
The program is a prompting for parents to get intentional about saving for college; but it's encouragement for students as well.
"'I have to get good grades, pay attention to the teacher, good attendance, all of these things are going to help me go to college and achieve my dreams,'" said Brown.
The announcement on social media this week prompted both disbelief and pure delight.
"I was one of the parents that thought I could put back a little money here and there," says Cameisha Borner, who also admitted that it was a good goal; but, one that has been hard to keep. She knows now how quickly time passes between kindergarten and college as her oldest daughter is almost there.
"She was thinking 'out of state,'" said Borner with a laugh, "And I was thinking of 'out of state expenses!'"
Her youngest, Angel, is a kindergarten student, so she says any encouragement to get started saving early is a bonus.
"I started reading, I got excited!" said Borner. "I was hooked and I was eager to learn more about it."
The "Dollars for College" program also includes matching funds and performance incentives tied to attendance and involvement that will allow families to earn up to $500 by the end of the students' first grade year, and that's not a bad start.
"Superintendent Granger wanted to make sure that he showed that we are investing in our students at an early age," said Brown. "It's never too early to start to water those dreams."
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