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Congressman Matt Cartwright

Representing the 17th District of Pennsylvania

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Rep. Cartwright Reintroduces Bipartisan Legislation to Promote College Savings

May 9, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Democratic U.S. Congressmen Matt Cartwright (PA-17) and Republican U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent (PA-15) reintroduced the bipartisan Children’s Savings Accounts Offer Parents Plenty of Reasons to Understand aNd Invest in Tuition Yearly (CSA OPPORTUNITY) Act with the support of eight House colleagues.

One well known type of Children’s Savings Account (CSA) is the 529 plan.  Created in 1996, 529 Plans allow parents to save money for college while offering both federal and state tax benefits.  Unfortunately, money set aside in a 529 Plan counts against the asset limitations set forth in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and the Low Income High Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

This in turn forces families to choose between putting aside money for college and keeping essential benefits.

“College savings accounts alter the aspirations of children by sending a message that they should expect more from their own futures.  Yet, when we force parents to choose between saving for college and keeping the lights on, we essentially punish financial responsibly,” said Rep. Cartwright.  “We should end this difficult decision for families and provide the opportunity for all families to save for their children’s education.”

Andrea Levere, president of Prosperity Now, endorsed the legislation. “Today, many families need to choose between receiving public benefits to help them get by and savings to help them get ahead. Right now, others in Congress are trying to make it even harder for families to escape poverty. Fortunately, Rep. Cartwright and Rep. Dent have reintroduced commonsense bipartisan legislation that will encourage families to save for their children’s futures without being in fear of losing access to nutrition, energy assistance and other benefits.” 

The CSA OPPORTUNITY Act would exempt 529 Plans from TANF, SSI, and LIHEAP asset limitations.  The bill would also exempt non-529 CSAs from TANF, SSI, LIHEAP, and Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) asset limitations.

Over 1.3 million American children born each year – and more than half of minority children – are born into families with negligible savings to invest in their futures.  Yet research and practice have shown that even a small amount of savings increases the likelihood that a child will attend college.  One study showed that children from low or moderate income families who saved between $1 and $500 were three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate than those without savings.