Tacoma Housing Authority’s Education Project
The Education Project has two main purposes:
- It seeks to help the children it houses succeed in school.
- It seeks to promote the success of the schools serving low-income students.
THA seeks these outcomes for three reasons.
First, THA’s strategic mission is to help people succeed not just as tenants but also as “parents, students, wage earners and builders of assets who can live without assistance.”
THA wants families to come to its housing and prosper. In this way, it wants their time with THA to be transforming and temporary. It wants this especially for the children. School success is part of this transformation.
Second, THA is a real estate and community developer. The financial and social success of its developments requires successful neighborhood schools.
Third, public schools face challenges that low-income and homeless children bring to the classroom. The schools cannot solve this without help. THA seeks to do its part.
Supporting Families and Schools
The Education Project is an experiment to learn if a housing authority can so spend its housing dollars, not only to house families, but also to promote school outcomes for their children and to promote the success of schools that serve low-income children.
THA begins this experiment surmising that it does have an influence to exercise. This surmise arises from facts that are true for most public housing authorities:
- Except for the school district and the public assistance agency, THA serves more poor children than any other organization in Tacoma. It houses about 1 of every 7 Tacoma public school students and about 1 out of every 4.5 low-income students.
- In serving these families, THA is already deep into their lives, as landlord, provider of highly regulated rental assistance, and provider of supportive services. This gives THA an influence over behavior and choices.
- THA owns communities that can be staging grounds for educational initiatives.
- THA resources can lever reforms and investments from schools districts and others.
THA tries this experiment in full partnership with Tacoma Public Schools (TPS), Tacoma Community College and other service providers and funders. The results should be interesting to other public housing authorities, school districts and educational institutions.
Children’s Savings Account Program
In the Fall of 2015, the Tacoma Housing Authority (THA), in partnership with Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) and other partners, began offering children’s savings accounts (CSAs) for the children of the Salishan neighborhood in Tacoma, Wash. In November 2021, THA expanded this program to include families served within its 14 managed properties. This program helps students, and their families, aspire to college, prepare for it, and develop a strong network of resources and support to achieve their post-secondary goals.
- The program’s contribution to the student’s account will be available once a student graduates from high school and enrolls in a qualified college or training program. The money will be available for educational expenses such as books, tuition, fees, room and board.
- The program helps to provide financial education and tools for families, including opportunities to learn about debt and credit management and banking services.
- It knits the region’s most diverse neighborhoods together by eliciting and enlisting its shared hope and expectation that its children will graduate from high school and be successful in achieving their post-secondary goals.
As companion goals, the program seeks to improve access of financial education for students and parents.
- THA will collaborate with financial service providers to bring educational and coaching resources into the family properties.
- Parents will be provided with resources and notices of upcoming events for financial education classes available in the area.
- The program will also help encourage parents to become banked (if not already doing so). Financial training of this sort is more effective when the children and the parents have real money to contemplate, as the CSA will give them.
THA plans this effort in collaboration with Tacoma Public Schools (TPS), Prosperity Now, initial funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Bamford Foundation, Heritage Bank, other funders and social service partners in Tacoma.
Outcomes & Measurements
Imagine if every child in America grew up knowing that they had a nest egg to attend college or a professional training program.
The CSA program for the children living in THA’s family properties seeks two types of outcomes for children and families in the program.
Educational Mobility & Post-Secondary Readiness:
- Increase rates of high school diploma completion
- Increase rates of enrollment in college and training programs after high school
- Increase rates of FAFSA completion
- Increase rates of program students requesting GET disbursement for post secondary educational expenses within 5 years after high school graduation.
Financial Empowerment & Community Connections:
- Increase rates of families without bank accounts into mainline banking services
- Increase rates of families engaging in financial education and coaching opportunities
- Increase rates of families engaging in out of school learning and community building activities.
Guaranteed Education Tuition Program Collaboration
The Childrens Savings Account is in partnership with the Washington 529 Guaranteed Education Tuition (GET) Program!
What is the GET?
The GET program is a Washington 529 college savings plan. Moving forward, all THA children’s savings accounts will be a GET account.
The savings in a GET account grow tax-free and remain tax-free when the student uses it for a variety of education expenses at schools in the U.S. and even abroad. Washington State then guarantees that the value of the account will keep pace with tuition growth of the highest priced Washington public college (UW and WSU). The student can attend any public, private, community, technical/vocation school in the U.S. and even schools abroad and use their funds to pay for a variety of education expenses.
Families can make contributions to an account at any time, in any amount. Every dollar saved is less a student borrows. In this way, the GET accounts act much like those in our traditional CSA program but with the added feature of a guaranteed value for education expenses that will keep pace with inflation and rising costs.
How it works
This program helps families save for their children’s education after high school. The program is currently available to students who meet the following eligibility:
- Be age 18 or younger at time of enrollment, and
- Be a THA tenant in the following THA Family Properties:
- 6th Avenue Apartments
- Arlington Apartments
- Bay Terrace
- Bergerson Terrace
- Dixon Village
- E.B. Wilson Apartments
- Fawcett Apartments
- Hillside Terrace
- G Street Apartments
- K Street Apartments
- Ludwig Apartments
- The Rise on 19th
- Wright Street Apartments
Students earn $500 by:
- Creating a GET account and participate in saving. GET accounts must be opened for 2 years before funds can be disbursed.
- Earning their high school accreditation (high school diploma, GED or equivalent)
- Enrolling into a post-secondary program of their choice!
THA staff and our community partners will work together to offer families:
- Free financial education for the whole family
- Financial aid navigation and supports
- College and career navigation and supports
Funding & Partners
THA plans this effort in collaboration with the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), Sound Outreach, Tacoma Public Schools (TPS), Prosperity Now, initial funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Bamford Foundation, Heritage Bank, other funders and social service partners in Tacoma.
BERK Consulting provides third party evaluation to support the analysis and research to inform the CSA’s expansion plan.