Building a CSA Program that Empowers Families to Invest in Higher Education
Children’s Savings Account (CSA) programs are burgeoning around the country. As the field of saving for children is gaining momentum, stakeholders understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to delivering a CSA program. After experimenting with various designs at more than ten sites, Inversant’s team has gained a deep understanding of the choices involving programmatic features, outreach and communication methods, banking products, and incentive structures. Some of these decisions depend on the program’s goals, its theory of change, and other factors such as funding, capacity of banking partners, or size of the population served. Designing a CSA program involves assessing a myriad of pros and cons to reach the most optimal arrangement that best serves the targeted population. With that in mind, Inversant would like to share its first working paper, which seeks to facilitate the decision making of those involved in establishing a CSA program. This specific paper shares the lessons we have learned about how to increase participants’ engagement and investment in their children’s education.
Here is the summary of the lessons learned:
- To increase account ownership, we found that designing an effective orientation session significantly increases participants’ interest in opening a savings account. Specifically, our experience shows that meeting families where they are and catering to their preferences about the saving accounts’ features increases account opening. Since 2009, Inversant has helped more than 800 families open over 1,000 savings accounts.
- To foster a savings culture, we continuously research and follow the developments in behavioral economics to inform our program design. We experiment with different nudges and innovate to find effective ways to incentivize deposits and foster a savings culture among our participants. Inversant families have collectively saved more than $700,000 since 2009. The monthly average deposit is $37. Every month, an average of 39% of families make a deposit.
- To promote college access by coaching parents, Inversant fosters the creation of a community of engaged parents by providing monthly workshops (Learning Circles) where a facilitator coaches parents through a professionally developed curriculum that covers all aspects of college access and success. The workshops are paired with warm meals, where families have space and time to socialize and exchange experiences, thus building a supportive community of savers. Well over 200 Inversant students are now enrolled in college where they are persisting toward their degrees at a rate much higher than the national average.
Please stay tuned for our upcoming second working paper on the results of our experimentation with various technological outreach methods geared to increasing participation, engagement and investment in children’s education.
See full report here.