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In 2009, the Illinois General Assembly created a bipartisan task force to explore a CSA program in the state. The task force recommended that a savings account should be opened automatically at birth for every child born in Illinois, using the Bright Start Direct College Savings Program as the savings vehicle.This report examines what it will take to make these recommendations a reality. To better understand the Bright Start program and how to make it an effective savings tool for all families, we look at how Illinoisans are currently using Bright Start, and explore the challenges low-income families and families of color face in using Bright Start to save for college. We also examine how a CSA program could impact the racial wealth gap in Illinois. Finally, we make policy recommendations for the design and implementation of a CSA program to help Illinois families save for higher education.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to build a financially secure future for themselves and their families. Access to equal opportunities is the cornerstone of America's core values and is also a necessity to growing a healthy economy. Unfortunately, the reality is a far shot from that piece of the American dream. Income and wealth inequality are at levels that we have not seen since the Great Depression. The Great Recession further expanded an already growing racial wealth gap. Many families have little hope of upward mobility. In fact, day-to-day life is more expensive for those struggling to make ends meet due to unequal access to the tools we all need to build financially secure futures. This includes a basic checking & savings account, a retirement savings account, a college savings account, home and student loans with low interest rates, and a solid credit score that gives you access to these important loans. Many households of color have been denied access to these crucial financial tools needed to build credit and put them on a path to financial health. As this report will show, this inequity has led to a stark racial disparity in credit scores as well as related indicators, such as education level, student loan debt, employment, income, homeownership, and home loan debt. Fortunately, there are programs and policies that can help close the gap and therefore strengthen the economy, which are also outlined in this report.
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