In many cities across the country, the zip code you’re born in is the most predictive factor in the health, wealth, and life outcomes you can expect. This uneven playing field can manifests in your ability to attend college and lifetime earnings. Lack of access to post-secondary training decreases the likelihood of attaining a good-paying job and supporting a family. Even after receive advanced training, the debt incurred may keep prosperity out of reach. Young people from lower-income families have an especially difficult time saving for college, because the financial status of the family may not lend itself to supporting their education. The price of admission reinforces the barriers that young people face in exiting poverty.
Columbus is piloting ACCESS, a program to address financial barriers that keep lower-income youth from achieving a post-secondary education. Through the Recreation and Parks Department’s Applications for Purpose, Pride, and Success (APPS) program, youth ages 14-24 receive a job along with leadership and professional development, financial education, and mentoring. Through the pilot eligible youth will also have access to an Individual Development Account (IDA) where up to $500 in savings will be matched 8:1 with a combination of City, private, and federal dollars, for a total of $4,500. Participants can use the funds for any eligible educational expense, including earning a certificate, to seek a four-year degree, or learn a trade.