Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald is defending his plan to set up $100 college funds for all county kindergartners. As ideastream’s Nick Castele reports, two members of the county council finance committee questioned whether the program is worth the cost.
The idea behind the plan is to give all kids in Cuyahoga County a $100 start on paying for college, and to get their families thinking early about how to add to it.
It’s going to cost about $2 million in its first year. About a quarter of that would go to costs like marketing, IT and paying a small staff of three people to set the program up and manage it. Only one person would have to be newly hired.
Council President C. Ellen Connally says she likes the idea of “selling a dream,” in her words, to kids who might not think they could go to college. But she’s not sure about the cost.
“I believe that we can sell that dream in other ways," Connally said. "Through programs in the school. Through community activity. Through basically teaching of this experience rather than tying up these funds.”
Councilman Dave Greenspan agrees with Connally. He points out there are other college funds available already, like what’s known as a 529 plan, which is exempt from some taxes.
But County Executive Ed FitzGerald says families who use that plan are typically moderate to high income, and well educated. He says his plan reaches low-income families without college backgrounds, though he acknowledges that in some cases, low-income kids already are planning for college.
“We know that it’s happening," FitzGerald said. "But it isn’t happening enough. It isn’t happening spontaneously. And we need to design government programs that are not free college but are at least one step in getting to college.”
Other county council members supported the measure to fund the plan, and it passed out of committee 5 to 1, with Connally supporting and only Greenspan voting against it. The full council is set to debate the plan in two weeks.