Tacoma Housing Authority (THA) has always had a unique Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program model, which pairs tenant housing assistance with CSA accounts. The program, which started in fall 2015 in partnership with Tacoma Public Schools (TPS), helps families living in THA’s Salishan community in Tacoma, WA, by combining housing stability and access to economic opportunities through education. Now, after an extensive strategic redesign process, THA is planning to make big changes to the CSA program to increase accessibility and develop a more holistic approach to community engagement and postsecondary education.
Here are a few of the ways THA is adapting its program to better serve children and their families:
- Updating eligibility to increase program engagement. Anyone 18 and younger who is a THA tenant is eligible for enrollment. Currently, the program serves families at 12 THA family properties.
- Changing from holding program contributions in a savings account to investing funds in Washington’s Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) plan. The GET program is the state’s 529 prepaid college tuition plan. Students have up to 10 years after high school to use the funds in a GET account for a variety of educational expenses at any public, private, community, technical or vocational school in the United States. THA is working in partnership with the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC) to implement this change. To support unbanked families, the program will connect them with college-savings gift cards that can be deposited into a child’s GET account.
- Building a “future-oriented” culture that goes beyond just attending college. “Our biggest emphasis is remembering that families have their own definition of postsecondary success, and we should honor that. It shouldn’t be defined by just going to college,” said Amy Van, a project manager for THA. The program will reflect these different visions of success by shifting its focus from fostering a college-going culture to building a future-oriented culture, as well as broadening the allowable uses of CSA funds. Additionally, the program intends to shift away from an incentive-based savings structure and award flat amounts to students for pursuing postsecondary education and other career goals.
- Developing new learning opportunities for both parents and students, while continuing to provide financial relief and support. THA plans to develop new community-building activities and events that will provide financial education and postsecondary knowledge to both students and their parents. Building on past efforts, the program will continue to help families meet basic needs and mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19. For example, last summer, the program connected families with laptops and internet access for virtual learning and engagement and distributed 300 meals per week to families.
The Tacoma Housing Authority plans to finalize all changes to its CSA program by summer 2021 and hopes to expand throughout the city of Tacoma in the future. To learn more about the program, visit the website and follow THA on social media for updates!
Originally posted by Prosperity Now on 2021-06-16 19:00:00