Despite the disruptions caused by COVID to college campuses, the high cost of higher education hasn't changed. According to the University of California, the average annual cost of attending a UC school, including tuition, housing, and personal expenses is more than $35,000.
Trying to make college more accessible and affordable to students of the future, Santa Rosa unveiled its own municipal College Savings Account program for at least 2,000 children up to five years old. Like a federal program known as a 527 account, the idea puts compound interest to work.
Angie Dillon-Shore, is with First Five California. She said even small early investments in college savings accounts have huge benefits.
"Research is showing that children from families who save even a dollar up to $499 for post-secondary education are three times more likely to attend college." Dillon-Shore said. "Four times more likely to graduate from college, compared with kids with no college savings."
Funding draws from a number of different avenues - federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan and money from the California Student Aid Commission among other sources. Families with a household income of $75,000 dollars or less are eligible. Some children will receive an initial seed deposit of $700, just for opening an account.
Dillon-Shore said the accounts are flexible.
"Once they turn 18, they can use it for books, tuition, housing, anything that's related to post secondary education. Dillon-Shore said. A family can also transfer it to another child in their family for the same use. They can also withdraw the money, but there are tax implications.
And she said research shows despite the flexibility, the accounts are being used as intended.
The city will officially launch the accounts next month. More information about the program and similar local ones may be found at FirstFiveSonomaCounty.org.