Stefan Lockridge is saving money for his son, Stefan Lockridge III, through the EduSaveDC program. (Courtesy photoe)
Stefan Lockridge is saving money for his son, Stefan Lockridge III, through the EduSaveDC program. (Courtesy photoe)

The cost of a college education, whether at a public or private institution, continues to climb and it seems that middle- and low-income families will have the most trouble providing a higher education for their children.

However, some Ward 8 families in D.C. are participating in a pilot program to help them pay for their children’s college tuition and related expenses.

The Capital Area Asset Builders (CAAB), a D.C.-based nonprofit with clients in the metropolitan area, works to educate low- and moderate-income people to manage their personal finances better, build wealth and to become better financially educated. CAAB, in conjunction with Capital One Bank and the 11th Street Bridge Park, has set up a program at Ketcham Elementary School, Hart Junior High School, Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys and the Washington School for Girls that will allow selected families to invest with the EduSaveDC program for college expenses.

“The program was launched in March 2019 for up to 110 families in Ward 8 at the four selected schools,” said Joseph Leitmann-Santa Cruz, acting executive director. “The program will put $150,000 in the pockets of 110 families so that children can achieve college dreams.”

Here’s how EduSaveDC works: CAAB maintains an EduSaveDC account in the family’s name and for every $1 saved — up to $300 — it will deposit $5 up to $1,500. It will be a savings account and CAAB and the family jointly owns the account at a D.C. bank that will be at the discretion of the family.

The family has 18 months to achieve the savings goal of $300.

Upon completion of the program, in September 2020, the family savings plus the earned match by CAAB — up to $1,800 — will be transferred to a college savings/529 account in the name of the family for the child’s benefit.

To participate in EduSaveDC, one must be an adult Ward 8 resident and interested in saving for college. In addition, the participants will be asked to attend free financial wellness classes and take advantage of free credit counseling, free financial coaching and free tax preparation services.

This program has been launched in light of the spiraling cost of a college education. According to a survey conducted by U.S. News and World Report magazine, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2018-2019 school years came out to $35,676 for private colleges, $9,716 for state residents at public colleges and $21,629 for out-of-state students at state schools.

Naomi Smouha, who works in Community Affairs at Capital One Bank, said her employer enthusiastically supports EduSaveDC.

“We are committed to helping people at all stages of their lives take better control of their personal finances and see particular importance in helping young people save for post-secondary education,” Smouha said. “With the right skills, knowledge and drive everyone can gain an edge on their future and have a lifetime of success. We are thrilled to partner on EduSaveDC as part of Capital One’s Future Edge Initiative, which provides $150 million in community grants and initiatives across the country to empower more Americans to succeed in the future economy.”

Scott Kratz, who works as the vice president of Building Bridges Across the River and director of the 11th Street Bridge Park, also said the EduSaveDC program has a critical role to play in the lives of Ward 8 residents.

“As a project of the Ward 8 based-non-profit Building Bridges Across the River, our mission is to improve the quality of life of residents in Wards 7 and 8,” Kratz said. “The children savings account helps us realize this goal and is an important strategy of our equitable development plan that allows local residents to build wealth and thrive in place.”

Stefan Lockridge, who has a fourth-grader at the Bishop Walker School for Boys, didn’t hesitate to sign up for EduSaveDC.

“As a D.C. resident, I want to take advantage of the resources that are available,” Lockridge said. “I think this is a great idea because it gives me a chance to send my child to a higher education institution and anything that will help me do that I want to take advantage of.”

Amira Moore, who has a child enrolled in kindergarten at Ketcham Elementary School, echoed Lockridge’s sentiments.

“I like the CAAB match,” she said. “I want my kids to go to college. It is expensive now and it will be more expensive when they get college-age, so every little bit helps.”

Leitmann-Santa Cruz said his goals are to get EduSaveDC in every Ward 8 primary and secondary institution and eventually every public school in the District.

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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