California is launching a new program that will open a small college savings account for every newborn and low-income child in the state.
The CalKIDS program, established in 2019 with additional funding approved by the governor last summer, officially launched last week.
“My goal with this program was to bridge the gap between wealth inequality and the high cost of education,” said Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks), in a joint press release with Gov. Gavin Newsom on Aug. 10. “Our shared vision ensures each child across the state will have an opportunity at higher education.”
In the release, Newsom said the CalKIDS program is “telling our students that we believe they’re college material.”
“Not only do we believe it, we’ll invest in them directly,” said Newsom. “We’re transforming lives, generating college-going mindsets, and creating generational wealth for millions of Californians.”
According to the program’s website, eligible beneficiaries are identified by the California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Education and automatically enrolled in the program, though families must register on the website in order to receive the money.
In the coming months, families of eligible children will be sent letters containing more information about the account.
Under the program, the state is investing $1.9 billion as a one-time grant and $186 million every year after that, according to a 2021 press release by Nazarian.
Low-income students will receive an initial $500 deposit, with an additional $500 if a child is identified as a foster youth and another $500 if a child is identified as a homeless youth.
Eligible newborns will receive an initial $25 deposit into their account, with an additional $25 when families register on the program’s online portal and another $50 deposit when a new or existing ScholarShare 529 college savings account is linked to the CalKIDS account. ScholarShare 529 is California’s state-sponsored college savings account.
Under the program, the account funds can be used for a student’s tuition and related fees, books and supplies, certain room and board costs, and computer equipment.
To register a newborn, parents need the Local Registration Number located on the child’s birth certificate or the child’s unique CalKIDS code provided in a letter from the program, the child’s date of birth, and the county in which the child was born.
To register a school-age child, parents need the child’s Statewide Student Identifier or the child’s CalKIDS code, the child’s date of birth, and the county in which the child is enrolled for school.