BabySteps Program Seeks to Help Children Attend College

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A program to get more parents to open college savings accounts is now available in Massachusetts.

The initiative, BabySteps, began Jan. 1 and offers parents a $50 deposit to a new 529 account for their newborn or newly adopted child.

"This is about economic stability," said State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg.

In 2016, Goldberg launched a similar pilot program to see if it would attract families in Worcester. The effort was aimed at kindergarten students, while another plan focused on middle school students.

"Kids are being encumbered by debt. Their families don't have the resources to pay to get them through the educational pipeline," Goldberg said. "And our state needs a skilled workforce."

The effort, which will be funded by public-private partnerships, has seen some success. One of the pilot programs launched 194 accounts with at least $94,000 deposited in them. However, only 70 of those accounts have customer contributions. Another plan, which contained a match system, has opened 51 accounts. Of those, 20 have customer contributions.

"In order to go to college, children need money and need to save money from now. They need to know that," said Nghia Le, who enrolled his son and daughter in one of the pilot programs.

To simplify enrollment, parents filling out birth certificate forms can now check a box to indicate their interest in establishing an account.

"To check off the box then and to get going right away just makes sure we are going to get so many more kids and so many more families involved," said Goldberg.

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