Opportunity Nation, a bipartisan coalition comprised of more than 250 non-profits, businesses, educational institutions, faith-based organizations, and community organizations, included U.S. Senator Chris Coons' (D-Del.) concept for Web-based student accounts in its new Shared Plan for connecting young adults with careers. The idea is at the heart of the American Dream Accounts Act, which Senator Coons introduced with Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) in March.
The American Dream Accounts Act encourages partnerships among schools, colleges, non-profits and businesses to develop secure, Web-based student accounts that contain information about academic preparedness, financial literacy and high-impact mentoring and would be tied to a college savings account. Instead of approaching these threads independently, this bill connects students, parents and teachers across silos, and takes a small but significant step toward helping more at-risk students of all income levels access, afford and complete a college education.
Senator Coons visited Opportunity Nation's 2012 summit in Washington on Wednesday to talk about his personal experience working with at-risk young people at the "I Have A Dream" Foundation, saying his work with these young people "changed abstract statistics into faces, into names, into families."
The American Dream Accounts Act authorizes the Department of Education to award three-year competitive grants to local partnerships that:
Create American Dream Accounts (ADAs), personal online accounts for low-income students that monitor higher education readiness and include a college savings account. ADAs would follow students from school to school and through college. Parents would grant vested stakeholders (including counselors, teachers, coaches, mentors, and others) access to the account to update student information, monitor progress, and provide college preparatory support.
Open college savings accounts for students. Every ADA would include a college savings account for each student. Grantees that can provide these accounts with seed money would be prioritized. Funds from the grant could not be used to seed the college savings accounts.
Support college readiness by securely monitoring students' progress online. Academic and behavioral information, including grades and course selections, progress reports, and attendance and disciplinary records would be available for review in an ADA, which would also provide opportunities to learn about financial literacy, prepare for college enrollment, and identify skills and career interests.
Collect data about effective ways to assist high-risk students in planning for college through a comprehensive monitoring and reporting system.
During his 15-minute remarks Wednesday, Senator Coons challenged the 1,200-person audience of education leaders to help level the playing field for American young people. "In order for America to be competitive in the global economy, we have to have a country where your future isn't determined by your ZIP code"
"With your time and energy, we will be able to make bold ideas possible and change the future for millions of young Americans, from one where they dream of going to college to something that is a part of their life from their earliest days. Thank you for what you're doing to make America an Opportunity Nation."
Opportunity Nation's Shared Plan can be found here: http://www.opportunitynation.org/pages/the-shared-plan