20 Dec 2021
The youngest participant enrolled in Providence Promise has not taken the SATS, filled out a financial aid form or even toured a college campus.
In fact, the program’s youngest participant has yet to enter kindergarten.
He is just a few months old. But when he is old enough to enter college, he will be financially ready.
That is the mission behind Providence Promise, a parent-driven non-profit that provides a pathway to higher education for Providence’s public and charter school students. The program focuses on early planning for higher education (as early as birth) through college savings plans and family engagement.
Currently 550 children from more than 300 low-income families living in the capital city participate in the program. The parents participate in workshops in key areas, including financial literacy, and learn how they can reduce the financial burden of higher education.
At the center of the program is the 529 college savings program. Participants are encouraged to open a 529 College Savings Account for each child and contribute an average of 1% of their gross annual household income. Providence Promise provides an initial contribution of $100 to each child’s account and provides opportunities for both families and children to earn additional incentives through the Early Scholarship Program. These opportunities include participation in Parent Council or Youth Council, good attendance, participation in extracurricular activities, good grades, volunteering, and more. In 2021 alone, families and students have earned more than $50,000 in Early Scholarships
Helping to remove barriers
“Consistent national research shows that low-income kids with as little as $500 or less in a College Savings Account (CSA) are three times more likely to go to college and four times more likely to graduate than those without, yet it is also widely understood that college planning and savings programs often have significant barriers for low-income families and non-English speakers. For example, they are required to complete complicated forms with complex financial terms, which are provided exclusively in English, without any assistance, so Providence Promise’s program is structured to remove many of these barriers,” said Executive Director Madalyn Ciampi.
The program has been successful. To date, families enrolled in Providence Promise have collectively saved more than $625,000 toward college expenses.
There is more work to be done, more families to reach, more College Savings Accounts to build.
“The Papitto Opportunity Connection’s investment in Providence Promise is a game-changer for the organization,” said Ciampi. “This investment will support many different aspects of our program, which will allow us to become more efficient, serve more students and families, and invest more money in the CSAs of our children. Specifically, these funds will provide a critical piece of infrastructure, a robust data system, which is paramount for the continued growth and success of the organization; help the organization to serve more BIPOC families and children in the City by investing in our enrollment efforts to enroll at least 400 children per year; support some of our robust Family Engagement programming; and provide Early Scholarships (incentives) to the CSAs of our kids. Providence Promise is on track for significant growth, and this investment moves us into the fast lane to support Providence kids and create a college-going culture throughout the community.”