(Feb. 22) – Rep. Brittany Pettersen’s bill to create college savings accounts for low-income preschool-age children passed the House Education Committee this afternoon. HB16-1196 creates a three year Aspire to College Colorado pilot program within the Colorado Department of Human Services, which will make an initial deposit of $50 into college savings accounts for up to 2,000 low-income children per year. Rep. Bob Rankin, R-Carbondale, is the coprime sponsor.

“This is a great way to leverage a small amount of money to create huge opportunities for the young kids who need it the most,” said Rep. Pettersen, D-Lakewood. “Getting a degree is too expensive and the price tag can make young students believe college is unattainable. College savings accounts can create that spark that changes the expectations not just for children, but their parents, to believe that college is possible.”

“Based on research, the college savings accounts that will be established through the pilot program will help expand the number of Coloradans from low-to moderate-income families that enroll in and complete college,” said Rich Jones, Bell Policy Center. “Children from low- and moderate-income families with $500 or less in savings were three times more likely to enroll in college than children with no savings.”

Having savings accounts, especially in a child’s name, is shown to be associated with higher math and reading scores for K-12 students and higher rates of college completion.

The program will be a public-private partnership where the state provides the initial $50 deposit in 529 college savings accounts in the child’s name and private philanthropic donations match ongoing family contributions up to $100 a year. 529 accounts are highly protected tax-advantaged investment accounts that can only be used for qualified higher education expenses. The bill also includes financial education for families through participating preschools.

The 8-3 vote sends the bill to Appropriations. Representatives Justin Everett, R-Littleton, Paul Lundeen, R-Monument, and Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida, voted no.

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