Los Angeles Unified on Friday plans to launch a student college savings program that will give thousands of first-graders their own college fund.
The program, called Opportunity L.A., is set to become the largest school district college savings program in the nation once it enrolls all first-grade students attending district schools. L.A. Unified, the state’s largest school district and the nation’s second-largest, enrolled over 35,000 first-grade students by the beginning of the current school year. The cost to fund students’ savings accounts during the first year would exceed $666,000, plus administrative, outreach and other related costs.
The first deposits will be made in June for more than 13,000 first-graders deemed to be in greatest need in 196 of the district’s 1,413 schools. Each will be automatically given $50 in a deposit-only college savings account. This first group of students has been identified based on the district’s Student Equity Needs Index that measures a wide range of student needs by tracking the percentage of students who may need additional support that each school enrolls.
Some of the students the index tracks are foster youth, English learners and low-income students with disabilities. The index also tracks suspension rates, reading levels for first grade students and asthma severity rates. The district often uses the Student Equity Needs Index to allocate funding.