For Immediate Release
Tuesday, July 19, 2022
Contact: Andrew Farnitano, 925-917-1354, firstname.lastname@example.org
BOSTON – The budget state legislators approved and sent to the Governor yesterday includes $500,000 in new funding to expand the BabySteps Savings Program into underserved regions and communities of color – a critical step to help families begin the process of saving for their child’s education or vocational training.
BabySteps provides every child in Massachusetts with a $50 deposit to start saving for their education if their parent or guardian opens a 529 account within a year of their birth or adoption. Having even the smallest amount of college savings makes students three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate.
Bob Hildreth, a local education philanthropist and founder of the Hildreth Institute, has played a pivotal role in the BabySteps program since it was established in 2019. As a founding sponsor, Hildreth provided funding to cover the deposits made to the first 6,000 children enrolled in the program.
“We’ve seen great success with BabySteps in communities across the state since the very first savings account was opened,” said Hildreth. “This critical new funding will help the program reach those who stand to benefit the most from a savings program like this – working families and communities of color, for whom a degree or vocational training means a stronger future and an important step in upward mobility for generations to come.”
Savings in a 529 plan can be used for college costs (including tuition and fees, textbooks and supplies, room and board, and special needs services), K-12 tuition expenses including vocational education programs, certain apprenticeship programs, and repayment of qualified student loans up to $10,000.
Originally secured through an amendment filed by Senator Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough), the $500,000 fund will expand the BabySteps program’s reach into Gateway Cities and communities of color to help underserved families line up the services and supports to save for their education. The money will establish a matching fund overseen by the Office of Economic Empowerment – a department within the Office of the State Treasurer and Receiver General – so that every dollar in private donations will be matched by $1 in state funding.
“By helping Massachusetts families save for their children’s future, and by improving access to capital where it is most needed and least available, we can continue to make a positive impact on the long-term economic well-being, educational attainment, and finally, purposefully and intentionally, make a real dent in economic mobility and economic inequality,” said Senator Feeney.
Since 2019, all children born or adopted in Massachusetts are eligible for the deposit as long as they are residents of Massachusetts and their parents or guardians open a 529 college savings account through the Massachusetts Education Financing Authority (MEFA) within one year. This deposit helps incentivize families of all income levels to start saving for their children’s future today.
In an effort to make enrollment as seamless as possible, parents can check a box on the birth certificate form they receive at the hospital to begin the enrollment process. The state’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget, which includes the new $500,000 fund, has been laid before the Governor and is awaiting his signature.
BabySteps was launched by State Treasurer Deb Goldberg to help make saving for college, technical or vocational education attainable for all Massachusetts families. The program followed two successful pilot programs overseen by Treasurer Goldberg, which were funded in part by the Hildreth Stewart Charitable Foundation: SeedMA, which provided seed funding to new 529 accounts opened within a year of a child’s birth or adoption in Worcester and Monson; and SoarMA, the State’s first college savings account program that provided seeded 529 accounts as well as savings workshops to low-income middle schoolers and their families in Gateway Cities, including Haverhill, Lowell, Pittsfield, Springfield, and Worcester.
Hildreth Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to restoring the promise of higher education as an engine of upward mobility for all. We believe that all students should be able to obtain a high-quality, zero-debt postsecondary education. At Hildreth Institute, we fight for zero-debt college because we believe that student loans are not the right financial aid tool for our students or their families. We need to move to a zero-debt system that makes high-quality college affordable to all, without leaving students mired in debt.