The Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF) recently announced grants totaling $100,000 for a joint project of the Economic Opportunity Agency of Washington County, Inc. (EOA) and the University of Arkansas, School of Social Work (School of Social Work). EOA will implement an Individual Development Account (IDA) program for high school students, and the School of Social Work will evaluate its effectiveness in helping young people save for a post-secondary education.
WRF was an early investor in IDAs as an asset-building tool for low-income families in Arkansas. IDAs are matched savings accounts that assist low income individuals and families in saving toward the purchase of assets, such as a home or future education costs.
"WRF embraces this opportunity to build upon its history of investing in IDAs as an asset- building tool for low-income families in Arkansas," said Dr. Sherece Y. West, president and CEO of WRF. "Research has demonstrated that IDAs can increase financial self-sufficiency and long-term economic security for families. IDAs have not been widely used with young people as a tool to incentivize educational achievement or completion."
With this grant, EOA will connect high school seniors in Fayetteville and Springdale with IDAs. The School of Social Work will provide mandatory financial education classes to promote saving for higher education and will study the youth IDA program and provide data demonstrating whether IDAs are effective as an incentive to increase higher education enrollment for low-income students.
"Our findings will be disseminated to inform policy, and to increase future youth IDA sustainability and funding," said Dr. Marcia Shobe, associate professor at the University of Arkansas, School of Social Work. "The support of WRF makes the project possible, and could change the lives of many young Arkansans."