Health, hope, and financial well-being are the results of giving new Oakland families money for their child’s future college education, according to results of a study announced this week.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, which partnered with Oakland Promise, a group that provides seed money for Oakland students to attend post-secondary schools.

The randomized control study of 200 families found that only six months after receiving the money from Oakland Promise’s Brilliant Baby program, parents expected their children to go to school longer, family financial well-being improved, and parents were less stressed and more optimistic.

“That is exactly what we like to see,” said Amanda Feinstein, director of the Brilliant Baby program.

“Parents are embracing this opportunity to support their aspirations for their children’s bright futures.”

Amanda Feinstein, Brilliant Baby program

She noted the results are early indicators.

A randomized control study compares the results of a study group, who in this case received money, with a control group who did not receive money for their child’s education. Parents in the study received $500 in the form of a College Savings Account to go toward their child’s future post-secondary education.

Researchers found that parents who received the money expected their child to complete one more year of education, on average, than before they received the money.

Six months after they received money, parents expected their child to complete 16 years of education rather than 15.

Parents who received money were more hopeful as measured by feelings of determination and planning to achieve one’s goals. They were less stressed compared with the control group and they felt they were more financially secure.

“Parents are embracing this opportunity to support their aspirations for their children’s bright futures,” Feinstein said in a statement.

Most of the families in the study were Black, indigenous or from another underrepresented group.

Money from a college savings account can be used to pay for housing, books, fees, or any college-related expenses — a reason for parents to smile. (Photo courtesy of Oakland Promise)

‘A solid start’

In Sacramento, the Legislature and the governor are proposing big investments in college savings accounts for young children.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing $2 billion while the Legislature is proposing $1 billion.

While the $500 given to families may not be much, Feinstein maintained that families experience it “as a solid start.”

The money is expected to grow to about $1,500 by the time each child is ready for their post-secondary education. Combined with $4,000 the same families may receive later through Oakland Promise, Feinstein said the total is “a definite chunk” toward college expenses.

The money can be used to pay for housing, books, fees, or any college-related expenses, she said.

Children in the study were Medi-Cal eligible infants 2 to 9 months old and enrollment ended just before the pandemic took hold in the U.S.

The study is just the second randomized control trial to look at the development and educational path of disadvantaged children after providing college savings accounts early in their lives, said Marc Hernandez, principal researcher at the University of Chicago.

It’s the first study of college savings accounts in which most of the participants were families who are Black, indigenous or from another underrepresented group.