Treasurer Torsella Unveils Universal Children’s Savings Accounts For Higher Ed

Bipartisan push for Keystone Scholars legislation to follow launch of 6 county demonstration project

Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella today was joined by Senators John Gordner and Vincent Hughes, James Preston, CEO of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, PHEAA Board Chair Rep. Michael Peifer and Vice-Chair Sen. Wayne Fontana, Rep. Duane Milne and others to announce a new program that would provide a $100 starter deposit to every child born or adopted in Pennsylvania to be used towards higher education expenses. A privately funded demonstration project will be available immediately in six Pennsylvania counties; the proposed legislation would extend it statewide.

“One of the greatest joys of being a parent is watching your child grow, and dreaming about their future. All of us here today want to send a message to every Pennsylvania family that welcomes a new baby that we believe in your child just as much as you do, and we want to help jumpstart his or her success.”

Pennsylvania Treasurer, Joe Torsella

Treasurer Torsella, who pledged in his campaign to work toward creating universal children’s college savings accounts (CSAs) for Pennsylvania, created Keystone Scholars with the purpose of providing a $100 starter deposit at birth to help encourage higher education aspirations and to help families start saving early. The starter deposit money – which will grow through investment -- would be dedicated for use on expenses directly related to post-secondary education including vocational training, and families have until their child turns 29 years old to utilize the funds. The starter deposit—and any additional college savings each family contributes—can be used for any qualified higher education expense, including trade schools, vocational programs, community colleges, and universities.

Torsella announced that Treasury has worked with leaders in the General Assembly on a bipartisan basis to draft legislation that will establish Keystone Scholars statewide for the long term. In doing so, the more than 140,000 children born or adopted in Pennsylvania each year would be automatically enrolled to receive a $100 starter deposit to be managed by the PA 529 College Savings Program under Treasury. As in other states that have pioneered universal CSAs, the program would not be funded with General Fund monies. Legislative efforts are being led by Senators John Gordner and Vincent Hughes in the PA Senate, and Rep. Duane Milne in the PA House.

“Research has shown that a baby with a higher education savings account at birth is three times more likely to pursue education or training after high school, and four times more likely to graduate. Every child born in every corner of Pennsylvania should be set up for success.”

Pennsylvania Treasurer, Joe Torsella

As part of today’s announcement, Treasurer Torsella also announced the launch of the demonstration project for all families living in Delaware, Elk, Indiana, Luzerne, Mifflin, and Westmoreland counties. $2.25 million in private funds have been raised to fund the demonstration project, so that every baby born or adopted from January 1, 2018 until December 31, 2019 within the six-county area will be eligible for a $100 529 starter deposit. All funds for the demonstration project are coming from philanthropic sources that include PHEAA and the Neubauer Family Foundation; western Pennsylvania philanthropy funders are expected to join the coalition in the coming months. The demonstration project also includes The National Philanthropic Trust and research support from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and Duke University’s Common Cents Lab.

“We are thrilled to have such strong philanthropic and legislative support for Keystone Scholars. I am particularly grateful to PHEAA leadership and its entire Board, in particular CEO James Preston and Board Chair Representative Peifer and Vice Chair, Senator Fontana, to the Neubauer Family Foundation for their support and financial commitment to the demonstration project.”

Pennsylvania Treasurer, Joe Torsella

To learn more about the Keystone Scholars program, please visit

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