K2C Blog

San Francisco Has A Future Worth Saving For!

Local partners are also promoting state-wide college savings opportunities with students and families. 

By Mohan Kanungo, Teresa Sanchez and Celia Yu 

For many low-income students, going to and paying for college seems impossible.  Luckily, San Francisco public school students get a double boost of support - from Kindergarten to College and CalKIDS – local and state programs that provide money and additional saving incentives to make post-secondary education a reality for all students. Five local nonprofits are now partnering with K2C to make sure all students and families know about these programs, and help students foster a college-going mindset, grow their college savings and access their funds to pay for education expenses after graduation. 

Money Set Aside for College   

Kindergarten to College (K2C) is both automatic and universal. When a student enters kindergarten in the San Francisco Unified School District, K2C automatically opens a college savings account in the child’s name at Citibank with a starter deposit of $50 in each account. There is no paperwork to fill out. Families with a K2C account can begin saving for post-secondary education immediately by choosing how to deposit and earning incentives, including a $20 award for viewing their balance online at K2CSF.org or awards up to $500 through K2C’s Art and Video contest. 

A second program, the California Kids Investment and Development Savings Program (CalKIDS), also sets aside money for newborns ($25-$100) and school age children ($500-1,500). Enrollment in CalKIDS is automatic state-wide. For the school-age version of CalKIDS, students must be identified as free and reduced-lunch (FRL) eligible and be enrolled in a California public school.  CalKIDS provides every FRL-eligible student $500, and students in the foster care system or who are experiencing homelessness receive additional $500 awards.  Eligible students can view their balance, which is invested for recipients, online at CalKIDS.org.    

While CalKIDS and K2C are the start of the college savings journey for many San Francisco families, California 529 ScholarShare can augment the money saved for college over time.  529s are an investment account typically opened by a parent/guardian (owner) for their student (beneficiary).  The 529 account owner can choose from different investment options, and withdrawals are free from state and federal taxes when used for qualified higher education expenses. Open a 529 account online (ScholarShare.com & Scholarshare-espanol.com) or download a paper application from their site to complete and mail.  

The California Child Savings Account Coalition’s list of financial terms, including investment and 529 accounts, in English and Spanish serves as a quick reference for understanding concepts related to college savings.    

It Takes a Village  

Since K2C launched in 2011, its collaboration with schools and nonprofit partners has been essential to creating awareness, helping students save and since the first cohort of students graduated in 2023, supporting seniors access their money for college.   Educators and community-partners integrate K2C in the classroom with financial education, organize field trips to bank branches and City Hall for “deposit days” and promote activities that foster a future orientation and college going mindset, see outreach toolkit.   

Fast forward and San Francisco’s Kindergarten to College (K2C) program has expanded its partnership from two to five community-based organizations.  Recently, staff from the Bayview & Hunter’s Point YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, Family Connections Centers, Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA), and Mission Graduates convened at the SF Main Library to discuss best practices when integrating college savings initiatives into their existing programs. 

Team photo

Fun ice-breakers, reflective conversations and game show style activities fostered relationship-building and understanding about the ins-and-outs of K2C, CalKIDS and 529 ScholarShare.  K2C has been able to deepen it outreach work with partners in neighborhoods, schools and communities across San Francisco thanks to a grant from California’s ScholarShare Investment Board (SIB)

The Opportunity  

Currently over 52,000 students throughout all San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) public and district-affiliated charter schools have a K2C account.  Approximately 3.4 million participants are eligible for CalKIDS statewide, including approximately 37,000 low-income public-school students and all newborns (born after July 1, 2022) in the City & County of San Francisco. With our partners’ help, we hope to see all of them engage with their accounts and start planning for education after high school.   

K2C would not exist without the help of our nonprofit partners and school ambassadors.  529 ScholarShare and CalKIDS, provide additional savings vehicles that complement San Francisco’s local program.  Students and their families benefits from having trusted community-based organizations that can guide them on their pathway to college. Visit K2CSF.org and CalKIDS.org today to view your balance online, see how you can grow your college savings and claim your money come graduation.  The K2C team, community partners and school ambassadors believe you have a future worth saving for

 YMCA logoBAYVIEW & HUNTER’S POINT YMCA builds healthy, sustainable, and equitable communities for all generations.  

BGC logoBOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF SAN FRANCISCO inspires and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens. 

FCC logo  FAMILY CONNECTIONS CENTERS supports the development of strong, healthy families and thriving communities.  

Mission grads logoMISSION GRADUATES is dedicated to establishing a college education as an expectation and goal for every child.

MEDA logo    MISSION ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCY advances a national equity movement by building Latino prosperity, community ownership and civic power.  

In Spring 2011, the City and County of San Francisco launched Kindergarten to College (K2C), the first universal incentivized Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program in a public school system in the country. All kindergarteners and new school age students (K-12th grade) entering a SFUSD school automatically receive a college savings account designed to build college aspirations and increase family savings for postsecondary education. K2C is an initiative of the San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE), under the leadership of the Office of the Treasurer and Tax Collector, and with the support of the San Francisco Unified School District.   

To date, K2C has helped families save over $15 million dollars for college. Two-thirds of that overall balance includes participants’ own contributions, while a third has come from the initial seed or incentive funds from the City. The average balance for those that have made deposits is $1,046.  The average balance for savers in K2C’s first class of graduating seniors, Class of 2023, is $1,422. 

As of 2023, K2C has begun disbursing funds to graduating seniors for their post-secondary education expenses. Our goal is to disburse K2C funds to every graduating student with plans for post-secondary education, which requires robust outreach to high school students on how to claim their K2C funds. When a graduating/graduated senior or parent/guardian claims money from the K2C account, K2C can disburses funds directly to them. More details about graduation are available here. 

In 2022, CalKIDS was launched as a new statewide CSA program designed to expand access to higher education for all students, especially those from disproportionately marginalized communities, by establishing a starting point to build savings for future higher education expenses. The ScholarShare Investment Board, an instrumentality of the state under the purview of the CA State Treasurer, administers the ScholarShare 529 College Savings Plan and CalKIDS. 

For the school age component of CalKIDS, eligible participants include 1-12th grade public school students in California enrolled as of the 2021-2022 school year and who were reported as qualifying for Free and Reduced Lunch as of the Fall Census Day (October 6, 2021).  Additionally, each subsequent school year, every 1st grader enrolled in a California public school and reported as qualifying for Free and Reduced Lunch by the Fall Census Day (typically first Wednesday in October) will receive a CalKIDS account. 

There are a variety of ways in which students and families are encouraged to engage with CalKIDS, including register their account and claim their funds after graduating. While the CalKIDS account itself is not accessible for individual deposits, families are encouraged to open a 529 ScholarShare account as a savings vehicle alongside their CalKIDS account. Unlike K2C, CalKIDS funds cannot be disbursed to the student and must be sent directly to a qualified educational institution.   

A 529 plan is a state-sponsored investment account that allows earnings to grow free from federal income tax when funds are used for qualified educational expenses including books, fees, supplies and tuition at universities, community colleges or trade schools. Historically, wealthier households have been more likely to save in a 529. 529 accounts require both the account owner (typically the parent/guardian) and the beneficiary (student) to have a tax identification number (SSN or ITIN).  

Though there are many 529 plans to choose from, if a K2C participant has a California ScholarShare 529 account, the City can transfer personal contributions and incentives saved with K2C directly into a ScholarShare 529 account. CalKIDS eligible students can also link their online profile with a 529 ScholarShare account in order to view balances in one place.  CalKIDS eligible newborns can earn an added incentive by doing this. 

Key Features 

Kindergarten to College (K2C) 


California 529 ScholarShare  

Initial Seed 


$25-$100 (newborns)  
$500-$1,500 (school-age)  


Make Deposits 

Yes - Branch, Mail, Direct Deposit, Bill Pay 


Yes - Mail, Direct Deposit, UGift 

View Balance Online  

Yes - K2C Account # and student date of birth required 

Yes - special code mailed to student or statewide student ID (SSID) number  

Yes - online profile created after opening account 


K-12th grade San Francisco public school students at SFUSD or affiliated charter schools 

​​​​​​​Born in California (newborn) after July 1, 2022 and Free and reduced lunch-eligible California public school students in 1-12th grade (SY 21-22) or 1st grade (SY 22-23 and every school year thereafter). 

Tax ID number  
(SSN or ITIN) for account owner (typically parent/guardian) & beneficiary (e.g. student) 

Grow Balance 

Yes - Incentives 

Yes - money invested for you 

Yes - investment choices 




Yes - minimal 

Disbursement for College 

To Individual 

To Higher Education Institution 

To Higher Education Institution or Individual