Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Newborns Get Higher Education Funding Boost

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Newborns Get Higher Education Funding Boost

Article excerpt

Raishonta Hudson of Oklahoma City thought it had to be some kind of hoax. Hudson received a package in the mail barely two weeks after giving birth to her son, Deaqualian, in June. The letter said complete strangers wanted to pay $1,000 toward her baby's college education.

"Nobody gives you anything for free," she said, tossing the package aside. "You always wind up have to pay for something." A few months later, a representative from the organization making the offer showed up on Hudson's doorstep.

"Once I understood what the program was about, I got really excited," Hudson said. It turned out to be a legitimate proposition offered as part of a unique research project. The state of Oklahoma won a competitive bidding process to be selected as the test site for an initiative of the Center for Social Development at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. The program is funded with help from the Ford Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation for Education.

Michael Sherraden, Ph.D., founder and director of CSD, said the Saving for Education, Entrepreneurship, and Down Payment - or SEED - accounts will provide state and federal officials crucial information that could lead to a significant, nationwide policy shift.

The big question the SEED program seeks to answer is this: If the government takes the first step and creates a $1,000 college savings account for a child who may not otherwise be destined for college, will that encourage the parents to follow through and take steps to ensure that child becomes a college graduate?

"We believe this has the potential to break the cycle of poverty," said Gov. Brad Henry. The governor and state Treasurer Scott Meacham stressed the importance of increasing the number of college graduates in the state, which earlier studies have shown has a powerfully positive effect on a state's economy and quality of life.

The idea is not completely new, said Sherraden. …

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