You’ve heard the warning: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” but in this case, it’s not a scam. The Pennsylvania Treasury is giving each child born or adopted in Pennsylvania $100 to go toward college or post-secondary education. The goal of the “Keystone Scholars” program is to encourage parents to start thinking about saving for their kids’ college as soon as the kids are born.
New parents Lizzy and Larry Bigante from Millvale are thrilled to get a head start on their new daughter’s savings for college. “There’s definitely a lot of emotions being a first-time mom, but it’s been great so far,” Lizzy said. Lizzy gave birth to Madison at West Penn Hospital where she learned about the Keystone Scholars program through a brochure given to new parents. She and Larry had already discussed starting college savings account for their baby, Madison, especially after they both had their own college loans to pay off. “It’s definitely a big burden once you graduate from college, having a lot of debt, so it will be nice that she’ll have a jumpstart,” Lizzy said.
All babies born to or adopted by a Pennsylvania family after December 31, 2018, are eligible for a free $100 toward higher education. The hope is that families will start their own college savings account in addition to this.
That’s what Sarah Turner, a nurse at West Penn Hospital, did after she and her husband learned about the program. Now, a monthly deduction from her paycheck goes to their infant son Josiah’s 529 college savings account. “It’s not something that we would have done on our own,” Turner said, “so it was nice to kind of have that extra boost to start saving ahead of time.”
If a family sets aside $25 dollars/month when their child is born, it can add up to $10,000 dollars by the time the child is finishing high school. Deputy PA state treasurer, Julie Peachey, said, “That is really why we’re providing this $100 when the baby’s born, at birth, because it gives time for the money to grow.”
Right now, only 20 percent of babies are registered in the Keystone Scholars program, but it’s not too late if you missed the brochure in the mail. You can register at any time, and the money can be accessed until a child is age 29. “It works for any type of post-secondary education, not just a four-year college, but any type of training, technical school, community college or two-year college,” Peachey explains.
College may be a long way off for baby Madison, but her parents are setting her up for success, no matter what she chooses to do when she grows up. She’s already off to a good start. “She’s doing good… 2 days old and 100 dollars,” they laugh.
Money for the program comes from surplus earnings in the state’s 529 program and from donors, including the Heinz Endowment and Hillman and Mellon foundations.
According to a study from the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL), children with savings for college, even if it’s less than $500, are 25% more likely to enroll in college and 64% more likely to graduate than a child with no savings.
To learn more or to sign up, go to: