Home News She’s Going Into 6th Grade and Already Saving for College

She’s Going Into 6th Grade and Already Saving for College

by Staff

Good morning. It’s Monday. Today, two education-related topics. We’ll meet a rising middle schooler whose focus is on saving for college. And we’ll look at what the decision on affirmative action might mean for students who don’t attend schools with race-conscious admissions policies.

The question for Caileigh Boyce was: How much is in your college savings account?

“Like, $5,000,” said Caileigh, who just finished fifth grade at Public School 112Q in Long Island City, Queens, and will be off to middle school in the fall.

“I wish,” said her mother, Celeste Lawton, who was standing behind her and rolling her eyes. “Six hundred and fifty-two dollars.”

Is that enough to pay for college? “Maybe not, like, already,” Caileigh told me last week, before she picked up another $118, for a grand total of $770. “But it’s a start.”

And that is the point.

Caileigh is one of nearly 3,300 rising sixth graders who were given their own college savings accounts for the 2017-18 academic year, when Caileigh entered kindergarten. Collectively, they have banked $1.26 million for college in NYC Scholarship Accounts since then.

That works out to an average of slightly less than $400 per child, although one child in the program has put away $1,747 — still not enough to cover college tuition, perhaps, but there is time. The nonprofit managing the program, NYC Kids RISE, projects that the average kindergartner’s account could easily be worth around $3,000 by the time he or she graduates from high school.

Lawton didn’t know about the program until a teacher at the school told her and her daughter about it, Lawton told me last week. “I did my own research and found out that basically, you had to do nothing,” Lawton said. “The community organizations — nonprofits — they give the money to the kids, and it goes straight into their accounts.”

NYC Kids RISE, which runs the Save for College program in partnership with the Department of Education, says that research points to other benefits. Even a small-dollar college account appears to increase the chances that a student will pursue education after high school. One study concluded that a low- or moderate-income child with less than $500 in a college savings account is more than three times more likely to enroll in college and four times more likely to graduate than a child with no account.

The fifth graders’ accounts were opened automatically with $100 from the Gray Foundation, started by Jon Gray, the president and chief operating officer of the private equity giant Blackstone, and his wife, Mindy Gray. Lawton was surprised by how easy the process was. “First name, last name,” she said. “It grows as she grows.”

The program was expanded in the 2021-22 school year to cover nearly every kindergartner in a public school in the city, including charter schools — more than 75,000 children in all. (The money in their accounts came from the city, $100 for each kindergartner; NYC Kids RISE put it into each child’s account. The money is invested in the New York 529 Direct Plan, named for the section of the Internal Revenue Code that spells out the tax advantages of college savings accounts.)

As Caileigh has learned, the account setup smooths the way for community groups and businesses to channel money to students. This means that “the message of expectation, the message of what’s possible, is reinforced from different directions,” said Debra-Ellen Glickstein, the executive director of NYC Kids RISE.

Some 19 “community scholarships” have been directed into children’s accounts from businesses in Queens, as well as religious organizations and civic groups. Caileigh has received seven of them, including $126.26 from one and $48.89 from another.

And, like every child in the program in her school district, she received $18.86 from the Concert for College 2019, a standing-room-only gospel performance during Black History Month that directed the money from an auditorium of $20-a-seat attendees into the children’s college accounts.

“There was a lot of work to get to that amount of money,” Caileigh said, and Lawton said she had encouraged friends to send graduation gifts to Caileigh’s account. “Everyone wants to give money,” Lawton said, “ but I’m, like, give money to the college account because college is going to be expensive.”

Lawton said the account amounted to “a promise for the future.”

“It gives me reassurance,” she said. “The community is saying we want you to go to school. It’s money you can use for college or for a trade school or for nursing school.”


Expect showers and thunderstorms from the afternoon into the evening, with a high near 90 during the day.


In effect today. Suspended tomorrow (Independence Day).

It turns out that race-conscious admissions have helped only a fraction of Black and Hispanic students. Fewer than 200 universities are thought to have affirmative action admission policies, and they award no more than 15,000 degrees a year to students who would not have enrolled without affirmative action — 2 percent of all Black, Hispanic and Native American students in four-year colleges, according to a rough estimate by Sean Reardon, a sociologist at Stanford University.

That leaves far more for whom those schools are not an option academically or financially — students who face hurdles paying for or finishing college.

As my colleagues Sarah Mervosh and Troy Closson explained, many of those students head straight into the work force after high school or attend less selective universities that do not weigh race and ethnicity in admissions. At least a third of all undergraduate students — including half of Hispanic undergraduates — attend community colleges, which typically allow open enrollment. Some “stop out,” putting their education on hold to continue working, sometimes for more than just one semester or one academic year.

“Somewhere it switched from ‘I want to be in school’ to ‘I just want to survive,’” said Dolly Ramos, who recently finished her nursing degree. To get there, she stitched together credits from several colleges in New York State. At times she lived in a youth shelter and slept on the floor of a professor’s office.


Dear Diary:

It was late one night in the 1970s. I was taking the PATH train home to Hoboken from Christopher Street after a rehearsal when I noticed a bank of cameras aimed at the turnstiles.

What a boring job it must be to have to stare at them all night long, I thought.

There was no one else waiting on the platform so, on a whim, I decided to do a silly, Shirley Temple-esque tap dance to amuse whoever was monitoring the cameras. I fake-tapped up and down the staircase a few times and ended with a big finish. Ta-da!

As I curtsied, I was startled to hear a series of slow claps coming from somewhere off in the darkness. Looking around, I saw that a young man had stepped out from behind one of the columns at the far end of the platform and was applauding.

I was embarrassed but smiled gamely.

“Thanks,” I called out.

One evening sometime after that, I was standing on a long line with some friends outside an Upper East Side movie theater when a man behind me tapped me on the shoulder.

I turned around.

“Excuse me,” he said, “but did you do a tap dance one night at the Christopher Street PATH station a bunch of years ago?”

I was absolutely flabbergasted.

“Oh no,” I said. “Were you watching the monitors that night?”

“No,” he said. “I was the guy at the end of the platform. I clapped for you.”

— Francesca Rizzo

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

I’m taking the rest of the week off, and a couple of days next week as well. Until then, I’ll be reading New York Today, just like you, as several of my Metro colleagues keep us posted. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Ashley Shannon Wu and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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