Keystone Scholars is fully operational and available for new and expectant parents. Due to a high level of interest in Treasury programs, we may not be able to answer every inquiry in real-time, or provide certain printed material. If you need assistance, please email us at keystone@pa529.com.

Get a Head Start on Education Savings with $100 from Keystone Scholars!

Keystone Scholars is available for every baby born to or adopted by a PA family after December 31, 2018!

A child with education savings is three times more likely to enroll in a two- or four-year college and four times more likely to graduate.1

That’s why PA Treasury is investing $100 for every baby born to or adopted by a PA family after December 31, 2018 to be used for the baby’s future higher education expenses.

New and expectant parents will be able to register for online access approximately 5 months after the child’s birth using information from the child’s PA state birth certificate.

Baby wavying

Who is Eligible?

  • All babies born to or adopted by a PA family after December 31, 2018.
map of the counties

Frequently Asked Questions

Keystone Scholars is Pennsylvania’s investment in your baby’s bright future.

Pennsylvania Treasury provides $100 for every baby born to or adopted by a PA family after December 31, 2018 to be used for your child’s future post-secondary education expenses. The $100 is invested by Pennsylvania Treasury and will grow through the years right alongside your child. Your Keystone Scholars account can be used for qualified expenses when your child pursues higher education. These expenses include tuition, fees, books, and more at a vocational or technical school, community college, two-year college, or four-year university.

Pennsylvania Treasury recommends that you access your online account once you receive a letter from us with instructions on how to log in. By accessing your Keystone Scholars online account, you can track the growth of your funds and link a PA 529 account so that you can view all your education savings in one place.

Before your child is ready to use their Keystone Scholars funds, you must open a PA 529 account, and doing so when your child is young gives your family the most time to save.

You can start a PA 529 account with as little as $10. For more information about the PA 529 College and Career Savings Program, please visit us at pa529.com

Eligible families will receive a letter in the mail from PA Treasury approximately five months after the child’s birth. The letter will provide information on how to register for online access using information from the child’s PA birth certificate. 

If you are expecting or you have not yet received your new parent letter, you can pre-register your baby here.

If your child is six months or older and you don’t have your letter, you may be able to access online using information found on your child’s PA birth certificate.

Pennsylvanians currently have one of the highest student loan debt loads in the country. And many families find it hard to get started saving when faced with their many other household expenses.

Our Commonwealth’s future economic stability and job growth rests with more families knowing there is a future for their children whether through vocational training, community college, or four-year college or university. Families need ways to save that are convenient, cost-effective, and that help jumpstart their savings for their child’s future at an early age. That’s what Keystone Scholars does.

Research shows that when children have some money set aside for future education, their parents are more likely to expect them to go on to study after high school, and they in turn, are too. One study found that a low- or moderate-income child with school savings of less than $500 is over three times more likely to enroll in college and four times more likely to graduate than a child with no savings account.1 

Researchers believe that educational savings has this effect through increasing motivation and educational engagement.2 In addition, Child Savings Accounts (CSAs) have been found to reduce maternal depressive symptoms, improve parent-child interactions, and improve the social-emotional development of children. These effects are even more significant among low-income families.3

Every dollar counts when it comes to paying for education. The $100 starter deposit is meant to help families jumpstart their savings as soon as possible. If a family puts in just $25 per month starting when their child is born, by age 18 that could grow to approximately $10,000.4

Pennsylvania Treasury administers Keystone Scholars through its PA 529 College and Career Savings Program.

529 plans help families save for education. The name "529" refers to Section 529 of the IRS tax code, which gives these plans special tax breaks to encourage saving.

The Pennsylvania 529 College and Career Savings Program offers two savings plans. The PA 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan (GSP) is a lower-risk plan that helps your savings keep pace with rising higher education tuition. The PA 529 Investment Plan (IP) lets you choose from 17 investment options from The Vanguard Group.  The IP plan recently received a Bronze rating from Morningstar, placing it among an elite group of 30 “Best in Class” plans, less than half of all the plans rated by Morningstar.

You can use a 529 plan to pay for qualified higher education expenses at most colleges and universities, and many technical and career schools. You may also use the money to pay for tuition expenses up to $10,000 at elementary or secondary public, private, or religious schools. (Note that the Keystone Scholars starter deposit and its earnings may only be used for higher education at qualified schools.).

There are no income limits, and anyone can contribute.

The Keystone Scholars program does not use any taxpayer funds. The plan is funded through a combination of surplus earnings from the Guaranteed Savings Plan and philanthropic donations.

Several states offer a Child Savings Account (CSA), but Pennsylvania was the first state to pass a bill providing for a state-wide universal, automatic (opt-out), CSA at birth. 

Maine’s current CSA program is the most similar one to Keystone Scholars because it is also a universal, automatic CSA that starts at birth.

Rhode Island’s CSA is universal and starts at birth when parents check the opt-in box on the state birth certificate form. Nevada automatically provides a CSA to all public-school kindergarteners. Connecticut provides a universal CSA to all babies whose parents claim it by their first birthday.

In addition, California, Illinois, and Nebraska passed universal, automatic CSA legislation in 2019.

Pilot Demonstration Project

Keystone Scholars first started as a pilot demonstration project that was available to families residing in Delaware, Elk, Indiana, Luzerne, Mifflin, and Westmoreland counties who gave birth to or adopted a baby in 2018. Families had until the baby’s first birthday to claim the starter deposit, which must be used by the beneficiary’s 29th birthday. All funds for the pilot came from philanthropic sources.

The counties were chosen to represent the diversity of the Commonwealth as a whole. Treasury used a variety of criteria in selecting the six counties. First, the demonstration project population needed to accurately reflect the population as a whole. At just under 14,000 births a year in the six counties, it represented about 10% of annual births statewide. Second, it was also important to have a diverse geographic sample. All six counties covered all four corners of the Commonwealth and included urban, rural, and suburban communities. The counties were also chosen because they varied in terms of higher education graduation rates, poverty rates, and PA 529 participation. Where Mifflin County is among the lowest statewide for higher educational attainment and 529 savings, Westmoreland County is a top performer for 529. Delaware County is home to both affluent Philadelphia suburbs and Chester, one of the poorest cities of its size in PA. The regional requirements of funders, some of whom have geographic restrictions on where they fund programs, were also considered.

At the close of the Keystone Scholars demonstration project (pilot), 19.08% of eligible families had claimed their starter deposit. For the purposes of comparison, a program similar to Keystone Scholars garnered a participation rate of 15.5% after its first year.

A rigorous external evaluation of the pilot found that families in pilot counties were twice as likely to open a Pennsylvania 529 College and Career Savings Account (PA 529) as families in non-pilot counties within the first year of their child’s life. This means that the $100 incentive was successful in motivating Pennsylvania families to take the next step to begin actively saving for their children’s future education. The doubling of account openings among pilot families is a statistically significant finding that is attributable to receiving the $100 incentive and related outreach efforts from Pennsylvania Treasury. The impact was visible across the board; in every pilot county the proportion of PA 529 account openings within a child’s first year of life increased.

For more information, see our Summary Results Report.

1 Elliott, W., Song, H-a, & Nam, I. (2013). Small-dollar children’s saving accounts and children's college outcomes by income level. Children and Youth Services Review, 35 (2013), p. 560-571.

2 Cook, et al., 1996 in Elliott III, W., & Beverly, S. G. (2011). The role of savings and wealth in reducing ‘wilt’ between expectations and college attendance. Journal of Children and Poverty, 17(2), 165-185.

3 Huang, J., Sherraden, M., & Purnell, J. Q. (2014). Impacts of Child Development Accounts on maternal depressive symptoms: Evidence from a randomized statewide policy experiment. Social Science & Medicine, 112, 30-38; Huang, J., Beverly, S. G., Kim, Y., Clancy, M. M., & Sherraden, M. (2019). Exploring a model for integrating Child Development Accounts with social services for vulnerable families. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 53(3), 770–795.

4 Assuming a 6% annual rate of return.

5 The Keystone Scholars legislation has been lauded by experts as a model for other states. See Clancy, M. M., Sherraden, M., & Beverly, S. G. (2019, November). Child Development Accounts at Scale: Sample State Legislation (CSD Policy Summary No. 19-46). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development. https://doi.org/10.7936/cptg-2n77.

Connect With Us

Phone: 800-440-4000
Email: Keystone@PA529.com

 

Keystone Scholars
613 North Drive | Room G-06
Harrisburg, PA 17120