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Frequently Asked Questions

For Parents / Guardians

On this page, you can find answers to questions you may have about the Save for College Program. Click on the category below to find your answers.

Click here to access downloadable versions of these questions and answers in PDF format.

Program Basics

1. What is the NYC Kids RISE Save for College Program?

The NYC Kids RISE Save for College Program is a scholarship and savings program designed to make college and career training more accessible for all NYC public school students— regardless of family income or immigration status.

Through the Save for College Program, unless their parent/guardian opts out, every kindergarten student enrolled in a NYC public school (including participating charter schools) automatically receives a NYC Scholarship Account. This account is invested in a 529 plan with a $100 initial deposit from NYC Kids RISE. You can also receive up to $200 in early rewards. Communities can contribute to these NYC Scholarship Accounts to further increase the savings in each account and demonstrate their community’s support for every child’s success. As a participating family, you may also open and connect your own college savings account through the online platform. Then, you can start saving yourself in ways and amounts that make sense for your finances.

This Program enables parents/guardians, family members, friends, schools, communities, businesses, and government to work together to build assets and support expectations of educational and economic success for every child.

2. How does the scholarship part of the Save for College Program work?

Once your child is enrolled in the program, NYC Kids RISE will create an NYC Scholarship Account and deposit an initial $100 toward your child’s educational future. Over time, NYC Kids RISE will continue to offer opportunities for your family to earn more money in this account. Community organizations, businesses and others can also add to the scholarship accounts to help your child reach their college and career goals.

The scholarship funds are invested in New York’s 529 College Savings Program Direct Plan, a type of account specifically designed to help families save for higher education. Your child’s NYC Scholarship Account can gain or lose money over time, depending on financial markets and the performance of the investment.

You will receive a Welcome Kit from NYC Kids RISE when your child’s NYC Scholarship Account is opened. For you to access your child’s NYC Scholarship Account and view the amount in it for the first time and throughout your child’s educational journey:

  • You will NOT be required to deposit money
  • You will NOT be required to provide your Social Security Number (SSN), Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), bank account, or credit card information
  • You will NOT be required to provide economic or immigration status information
  • There is NO maximum or minimum income to participate
3. How does the savings part of the Save for College Program work?

After your child receives their NYC Scholarship Account, you will receive more information on how to create a college savings plan that is right for you and your family. To build on the money invested in your child’s NYC Scholarship Account, you will have an opportunity to open and connect your own college savings account through the platform. As opposed to the NYC Scholarship Account which is owned and managed by NYC Kids RISE, you own your college savings account. You, your relatives, and your friends can contribute directly to this account. Depending on which option you choose, your family can track your own savings balance along with your child’s NYC Scholarship Account through NYC Kids RISE’s online platform, Savings Tracker. There are a variety of ways to learn about your options, including reading information on our website and associated materials, attending an NYC Kids RISE workshop, calling our hotline, emailing our info address, making a 1:1 appointment with us, or going to a free financial counseling appointment at an NYC Financial Empowerment Center.

4. Why was the Save for College Program created?

It can be difficult to save for a child’s educational future. For many families, sending their children to college may seem out of reach. NYC Kids RISE, in partnership with the City of New York and the NYC Department of Education, started the Save for College Program to support families to begin saving and planning for college and career training from their child’s very first days of school. Research shows that children with a college savings account of between $1 and $500 are three times more likely to enroll in college and more than four times more likely to graduate. Research also shows that children who attend college earn a significantly higher salary over their lifetimes and are less likely to be unemployed.

5. How does immigration status affect my ability to participate?

It doesn’t! All eligible students can participate in the Save for College Program regardless of immigration status.

Families DO NOT need to provide a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for the child to be enrolled in the program and receive an NYC Scholarship Account.

However, when considering whether to open your own savings account to save alongside the NYC Scholarship Account, please note that the savings accounts currently available through the program do require either a Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to open. In addition, if you choose to open and connect a NY 529 Direct Plan as your savings option, you must meet the IRS definition of U.S. citizen or resident alien with a verified U.S. address. If you do not have this information, remember that a family member or trusted friend can open an account for your child.

You DO NOT need to open your own account to receive and keep the free NYC Scholarship Account.

6. What can the money in the NYC Scholarship Account be used for? Are there any restrictions on how it can be used? What if my child does not attend college?

Money in the NYC Scholarship Account is invested in the NY 529 Direct Plan and can be used for a variety of higher education expenses. And even though the 529 account is called a college savings account, the account can be used to pay for qualified higher-education expenses at any eligible institutions in the US and abroad. In addition to traditional 4-year colleges and universities, other types of eligible institutions include: community colleges, trade and vocational schools, and online degree programs. Visit nysaves.org for a full list of qualifying higher education expenses.

If a student in the Program does not claim their NYC Scholarship Account funds within 20 years after they complete kindergarten, then those funds will go back to NYC Kids RISE to support future Save for College Program students.

Money in the NYC Scholarship Account cannot be used for any K-12 expenses, including those that qualify under federal law.

For Families New to the Program

7. Who is eligible to participate in the Save for College Program?

All families with kindergarten students enrolled in a NYC public school (including participating charter schools) are eligible to participate, no matter their income or immigration status.

Because the program was piloted in geographic School District 30 starting in 2017, every first- through fourth-grade student in a pilot school is also eligible.

Eligible students must attend a participating school for at least 60 days to be enrolled.

8. How do I participate?

If your child is eligible, it’s easy to get started with the Save for College Program! Here’s how:

  • Simply take no action when you receive notice from your child’s school that the opt-out process has started (you will receive information about the opt out process at that time).
  • After the opt out process, your child will be automatically enrolled in the Save for College Program, and NYC Kids RISE will open and deposit an initial $100 into a NYC Scholarship Account for your child.
  • You will receive a Welcome Kit with additional information and instructions from NYC Kids RISE. If you don’t opt-out in the fall, you should expect to be able to activate your account by early January. (The timeframe of when you can activate your account may vary if you enroll at a later date.)
  • After you receive your Welcome Kit, register through NYC Kids RISE’s online platform, Savings Tracker, to activate your child’s NYC Scholarship Account and track it over time. You will also receive information about how to take other foundational steps in the program.
9. What if I don’t want to participate?

To tell your school that you do not want your child to be enrolled in the Save for College Program, you must return a signed opt-out form or log into your NYC Schools Account within a 30 day period. Within the NYC Schools Account site, you can find the opt-out option by going to your student’s page, clicking on post-secondary planning and then on Save for College Program Opt-Out Form. Taking either of these actions means your child will not receive a NYC Scholarship Account, the initial $100 deposit, or future funds. Please refer to your child’s opt-out form or to information the NYC Department of Education website for specific details.

10. If I do not opt out, what information does NYC Kids RISE receive about me and my child to enroll my child in the Save for College Program?

NYC Kids RISE receives the following pieces of information from the NYC Department of Education for every participating student:

  • Student and parent identification numbers unique to the program;
  • Student’s full name;
  • Student’s birth date;
  • Student’s home address;
  • Whether the student’s home address changes;
  • Student’s home phone number;
  • Student’s school name;
  • Student’s current grade level;
  • Language(s) spoken at student’s home;
  • Transfers made to other schools, if any, both inside and outside the NYC public school system.

NYC Kids RISE also receives the following information for up to two parents/guardians per participating student:

  • Parent/guardian full name;
  • Parent/guardian email address;
  • Parent/guardian cell and/or other phone number.

This is similar information to what you submit on the “blue card” when you enroll your child in school. This data allows NYC Kids RISE to set up an NYC Scholarship Account for every participating child and make an initial deposit of $100 into each one. NYC Kids Rise follows strict privacy and confidentiality guidelines for all family information.

Eligibility and Participation

11. How is our information used?

This basic information about participating families is used to set up the student’s NYC Scholarship Account, contact families about the Save for College Program, and evaluate the success of the program. After your child has been enrolled in the program, you can update the contact information provided to NYC Kids RISE by clicking unsubscribe when you receive an email from NYC Kids RISE. To view your child’s NYC Scholarship Account, visit nyckidsrise.org and click “View Account.”

12. What is VistaShare, and how is it related to the Save for College Program?

VistaShare is a technology company contracted by NYC Kids RISE that provides software to securely store the personal information about children and parents/guardians and to create their NYC Scholarship Accounts. The VistaShare software, called the Savings Tracker, also allows authorized family members of participating children to view their scholarship account and link their own college savings account, if they choose to do so.

13. What personal information will VistaShare receive about my child and me?

VistaShare will have access to the software that stores participant information so that it can provide technical support. The software stores the basic information about families provided by the Department of Education, the value of the scholarship funds allotted to each participant, and information from the account that a family has linked to their scholarship account.

14. If I choose not to participate in the Save for College Program now, can I enroll my child at a later date?

Yes, parents/guardians who opted out but later change their minds and wish to participate can download a re-enrollment form from the NYC Department of Education website or ask for a re-enrollment form at their school. Once completed, they should return the form to the school in order to start the process of enrolling their child into the program.

15. Can I cancel my child’s participation in the Save for College Program after the Opt-Out Notice deadline?

Yes. If you wish to cancel your child’s participation after being enrolled in the Save for College Program, you can download a cancellation form from the NYC Department of Education website or ask your school for a cancellation form. Once completed, you should return the form to the school in order to start the process of canceling your child’s participation in the program.

NYC Scholarship Account

16. How can I view the balance of my child’s NYC Scholarship Account?

You can view your child’s NYC Scholarship Account online via the NYC Kids RISE Savings Tracker. To access the Savings Tracker, visit nyckidsrise.org and click the yellow button on the top right that says, “View Account.” Follow the step-by-step instructions to create a profile, complete a survey, and view the scholarship account balance.

17. What is a “Student ID #” and why do I need it to register on the Savings Tracker?

The Student ID # is an identification number provided by the NYC Department of Education to every student in NYC public schools. The Savings Tracker asks for your child’s Student ID # to confirm your identity and protect the privacy of your child’s information. You can find your child’s Student ID # on your child’s report card, by logging onto your NYC Schools Account at https://mystudent.nyc, or by asking your child’s school. Note that NYC Kids RISE will never be able to see or access this Student ID #.

18. How will $100 make a difference in a child’s ability to go to college?

Children who have a college savings account and a plan for higher education are more likely to attend and graduate from college. Research shows that children with a college savings account of just $1 to $500 are three times more likely to enroll in college and more than four times more likely to graduate with a degree. The hope is that participating students’ NYC Scholarship Accounts will grow over time through additional rewards and Community Scholarships (subject to potential investment gains or losses), making college more accessible for every child.

19. How can I earn additional scholarship money for my child?

NYC Kids RISE will provide opportunities for families to earn additional deposits, or rewards, toward their NYC Scholarship Account. The first three rewards are for completing what we call the “3 Building Blocks”. These three steps lay the foundation for our long-term partnership to save together for your child’s future:

  1. Activate and view your child’s NYC Scholarship Account online
  2. Explore your college savings options: open your own college savings account, and connect it to your child’s scholarship account
  3. Deposit at least $5 into your connected college savings account

NYC Kids RISE will deposit $25 into your child’s scholarship account for each of these Building Blocks.

Starting the first day of first grade, families who have completed all 3 Building Blocks are eligible for the Savings Match reward. For the next $100 your family saves NYC Kids RISE will deposit $100 in your child’s NYC Scholarship account. Both the Building Block and Savings Match rewards are available through 5th grade. Additional rewards will be announced in the future. Visit nyckidsrise.org or call 833-543-7473 for the latest reward deadlines and announcements.

20. Can I save my own money in my child’s NYC Scholarship Account?

No, families cannot make deposits into individual NYC Scholarship Accounts. NYC Kids RISE encourages families to consider opening their own college savings account through the platform and starting to make contributions to that account. Community members, including organizations and businesses, can contribute to the scholarship accounts of a group of students by donating to NYC Kids RISE.

21. How much will be in my child’s NYC Scholarship Account by the time they graduate high school?

The NYC Scholarship Account is invested in the NY 529 Direct Plan. Funds in the NY 529 Direct Plan are invested in financial markets with compound earnings, so the scholarship account can grow over time. For example, if your child had $300 in their scholarship account (the $100 initial contribution plus $200 in potential rewards), their account would be estimated to grow to approximately $500 by the time the student graduated high school. This is based on a hypothetical return rate of approximately 4.5% per year, over 13 years. However, because money in the scholarship account is invested, the scholarship account could also lose money at times, depending on the performance of the investment. That means that the amount available for your child from the NYC Scholarship Account when your child attends college may be more or less than the amounts originally deposited by NYC Kids RISE into the account.

22. What is a 529 account?

529 account is a type of account specifically designed to help families save for college. Money in a 529 account can grow over time and comes with tax benefits, including tax-free earnings and potential state income tax deductions. However, money in a 529 account is not guaranteed to grow and can also lose value. The NY 529 Direct Plan is a 529 college savings plan administered by the Office of the Comptroller of the State of New York and the New York Higher Education Services Corporation. Most other states also offer their own versions of 529 accounts that can help you achieve your savings goals. However, these other 529 accounts cannot be connected to your child’s scholarship account on the Savings Tracker platform.

23. Who decides how the scholarship account funds are invested?

NYC Kids RISE owns and manages the NYC Scholarship Accounts and determines how the funds are invested. NYC Kids RISE has chosen to invest the scholarship accounts in the “Moderate Age-Based Option” of the NY 529 Direct Plan. For more information about the NY 529 Direct Plan and its investment options, visit nysaves.org or call 877-NYSAVES (877-697-2837).

24. Will this scholarship prohibit my child from receiving other scholarships in the future?

Having an NYC Scholarship Account should not prohibit your child from receiving other scholarships in the future, though that may depend on the terms of those other scholarships. Please review the terms of those scholarships and contact NYC Kids RISE at 833-543-7473 with questions.

25. How does the Save for College Program relate to the Excelsior Scholarship, New York State’s tuition-free degree program?

Money in the NYC Scholarship Accounts can be used for more than just tuition. If a student qualifies for free tuition at a CUNY or SUNY college through the Excelsior Scholarship, they can use funds from their NYC Scholarship Account toward the many other costs of college. This includes books, supplies, computers, and some room-and-board fees. Also, the NYC Scholarship Account can be used at most two- and four-year colleges and career training programs around the country, as well as at some in other countries.

26. How can my child access the money when they go to college?

NYC Kids RISE will provide students and their parents/guardians with information about how to access their NYC Scholarship Accounts when the students are in high school. NYC Kids RISE is committed to making these funds available when your participating child attends college.

27. Is there a deadline for my child to use their scholarship account funds?

The deadline for using the money in your child’s NYC Scholarship Account is 20 years after the school year in which your student began kindergarten. For example, students who began kindergarten in September 2021 will be able to apply for and use their scholarship funds for qualified college or career training expenses until June 30, 2042. If there are any unclaimed funds left after that deadline, those funds will go back to NYC Kids RISE to support the Save for College Program in future years.

28. Can the money in this account be transferred to another child if my child does not use it?

No, the NYC Scholarship Account is set aside specifically for your child’s education after high school. Money in the scholarship account cannot be transferred to another child.

29. How does having an NYC Scholarship Account affect qualification for public benefits?

Because the NYC Scholarship Accounts are owned and managed by NYC Kids RISE, having a scholarship account DOES NOT impact a student’s or family’s application for public benefits. If a family saves money in their own college savings account, this asset may impact certain benefits. For more information on how contributing to your own college savings account may impact your benefits, visit our downloadable resources page and review our Public Benefits handout for more information.

30. How does having an NYC Scholarship Account affect my rent if I live in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) housing?

Because the NYC Scholarship Accounts are owned and managed by NYC Kids RISE, having a scholarship account DOES NOT impact a student’s or family’s application or rent for NYCHA housing or for housing support through the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development. If a family saves money in their own college savings account, this asset may be considered in the application process. For more information on how a savings account may impact your NYCHA rent, visit our downloadable resources page and review our Public Benefits handout for more information.

31. How does having an NYC Scholarship Account affect qualification for financial aid?

Because the NYC Scholarship Accounts are owned and managed by NYC Kids RISE, having a scholarship account DOES NOT impact a student’s eligibility for financial aid while the money is in the account. NYC Kids RISE will provide more information as your child gets closer to college about how using the scholarship account money for your child’s education could impact their eligibility for financial aid once the money is spent. There may or may not be an impact.

If a family saves money in their own college savings account, these savings may impact the student’s financial aid package. For more information on how contributing to your own college savings account could impact your student’s eligibility for financial aid under current financial aid rules, visit our downloadable resources page and review the Financial Aid Handout for more information.

32. Can the scholarship funds be used for any special education programs?

The NYC Scholarship Accounts, in line with NY 529 Direct Plan rules, can be used to cover certain services for students with special needs in connection with enrollment and attendance at eligible educational institutions. Some eligible educational institutions have programs and supports in place for students with special needs. To check if a particular school or program is eligible, visit https://fafsa.ed.gov/spa/fsc/#/SEARCH?locale=en_ US. To learn more about the types of eligible expenses under the NY 529 Direct Plan, including for students with special needs, contact NY 529 at 877-NYSAVES (877-697-2837) or visit nysaves.org.

Your Own College Savings Account

33. What are my options for saving through the Save for College Program?

There are many ways to save for college. The Save for College Program provides two college savings account options that you can open and connect to your child’s NYC Scholarship Account:

  1. A NY 529 Direct Plan Account (a type of investment account specifically created to help families save for college and career training); and
  2. A more traditional bank savings account (more information on this option will be provided in January 2022)

There are other ways to save besides these two options. You may wish to explore other alternatives to see if they might be better suited for your particular needs or circumstances. However, the specific features and benefits provided by the Save for College Program for college savings accounts are available only for the options provided through the program. NYC Kids RISE does not provide investment advice or recommend any particular kind of college savings account. For more information about these options and how to open an account, visit nyckidsrise.org/options, contact NYC Kids RISE, or attend an upcoming Save for College Program workshop.

34. How is a 529 account different from a bank account?

Bank accounts and 529 accounts are both options for saving money for college. However, 529 accounts are invested in financial markets, which come with both greater potential risks and greater potential rewards. A savings account at a traditional bank, on the other hand, is often insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation up to $250,000.1 Contributing to a 529 account, including the NY 529 Direct Plan, also comes with certain tax benefits that do not come with most bank accounts.

529 accounts are specifically designed for families saving for a child’s education after high school. If a withdrawal from the 529 account is used for anything other than qualified educational expenses, the earnings portion of the withdrawal may be taxed as ordinary income and families may incur a 10 percent tax penalty on the earnings. The withdrawal may also be subject to state and local taxes.

1 The standard deposit insurance coverage limit is $250,000 per depositor, per FDIC-insured bank, per ownership category. Deposits held in different ownership categories are separately insured, up to at least $250,000, even if held at the same bank.

35. What if I already have a 529 account set up for my child?

If you already have a 529 account in the NY 529 Direct Plan with your child as the beneficiary, you will have the opportunity to connect that existing account to the child’s NYC Scholarship Account and view the balance of both accounts in one place. For more information on how to connect the accounts, visit nyckidsrise.org/options. If you already have a 529 account in another state’s 529 plan, you may continue to use that account, but it will not qualify for the specific features and benefits provided by the Save for College Program. The NYC Kids RISE Save for College Program does not provide investment advice, and a recommendation about the suitability of any investment is not being made in this document.

36. What happens if a student is not able to use their NY 529 Direct Plan account to pay for qualified expenses?

Withdrawals from 529 plan accounts that are not used for qualified expenses are subject to federal, and applicable state and local tax on the earnings, as well as a 10% federal penalty. However, withdrawals due to a disability are subject to federal and applicable state and local tax on the earnings but not the 10% federal penalty. In addition, recent changes in federal tax laws allow money in a student’s 529 account to be transferred to an ABLE account under certain circumstances before January 1, 2026 without any federal or state tax or penalty.

ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) accounts are tax-advantaged savings vehicles that allow individuals with disabilities to save for disability-related expenses without the risk of losing their benefits from assistance programs like SSI and Medicaid (some restrictions apply).

For more information about ABLE accounts, please visit mynyable.org or our downloadable resources page and review the Question and Answers for Families of Students with Disabilities handout for more information.

37. How should I think about college and career savings if I have other savings priorities or debt?

Everyone’s financial situation is different. For one-on-one help, consider seeking the advice of an investment professional, or visit an NYC Financial Empowerment Center for free financial counseling. At the City’s Financial Empowerment Centers, you can meet one-on-one with a professional financial counselor who can help you make a budget and save and plan for the future, including higher education. Counselors can also help you tackle debt, improve your credit, open a bank account, and more. To schedule an appointment at a Center near you, call 311 or visit nyc.gov/dca

38. What kinds of financial education opportunities does the Save for College Program offer?

NYC Kids RISE provides tools and information for families to develop their own college and career savings plans. This includes workshops and events at your child’s school where you can learn more about college and career savings options and financial empowerment resources available to you. A calendar of upcoming Save for College Program events can be found at nyckidsrise.org/events. Make sure to keep your contact information updated on the Savings Tracker to receive regular communication about upcoming events, resources, and opportunities.

NYC Kids RISE has collaborated with the NYC Department of Education to develop exciting and interactive financial education curricula for kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade students. These curricula were created by the NYC Department of Education’s Teaching and Learning division of the Queens North Field Support Center, with some lessons adapted from the FDIC’s Money Smart for Young People program. These standard-aligned, cross-functional lessons help students build the foundational skills needed to become financially responsible adults.

39. How do I open a college savings account?

Visit nyckidsrise.org/options or attend a Save for College Program event for instructions and support. You can also contact NYC Kids RISE by calling (833) 543-7473 or sending an email to info@nyckidsrise.org.

40. Do I need to open my own college savings account to be enrolled in the program?

No, you do not need to open your own college savings account or deposit any money for your child to be enrolled in the Save for College Program and have an NYC Scholarship Account. However, NYC Kids RISE encourages every family to explore their options and open their own college savings account. For support, contact NYC Kids RISE or attend a Save for College Program event.

The Savings Match

How does the Savings Match work?

For every dollar your family deposits into your connected college savings account up to the next $100, NYC Kids RISE will deposit a dollar into your child’s NYC Scholarship Account. This opportunity starts the day of your child’s first grade year, and after completing Building Block 3 (Making your first $5 deposit).

As long as you have connected a college savings account to your child’s NYC Scholarship Account (Building Block 2), NYC Kids RISE can track your family’s deposits and automatically match them.

How will I know if my child’s account has received the Savings Match?

To see the deposits NYC Kids RISE has made into your child’s NYC Scholarship Account, log back into the Savings Tracker and scroll down to the section called “Your College Savings Accounts.”

Click the tab labeled “Scholarship Account” and scroll down to view the transaction history. You will see a transaction labeled “Savings Match” for each qualifying deposit to your connected college savings account.

How much should I start saving regularly into my child’s college savings account?

Every family’s situation is different. College savings are one important piece of a family’s overall financial health. Deciding how much to save for college or career training depends on your individual financial circumstances, including your income, assets, debt, regular expenses, public benefits, and credit. NYC Kids RISE encourages every family to start contributing at whatever amount makes sense for them. Getting started while your child is young can make a big difference, regardless of the amount.

For free, one-on-one support with fitting savings into your overall financial picture, consider visiting one of the NYC Financial Empowerment Centers located throughout the city. At the Financial Empowerment Centers, you can meet one-on-one with a professional financial counselor who can help you tackle debt, improve your credit, create a budget, open a bank account, save and plan for your future, and more. You can also get information about saving for your child’s college education and making a plan to start saving.

To schedule an appointment at a Financial Empowerment Center near you, call 311 or visit www.nyc.gov/dca.

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