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The Mobility Beat

Better than Free: What Americans Need More than 'Free College'

By William Elliott
Tuesday, September 15, 2015

In the midst of the political debate over changes to college financing--including proposals for 'free college', AEDI Founding Director Willie Elliott considers the evidence regarding children's savings and educational outcomes, to ask what might be even better than 'free', when it comes to using higher education to place the American Dream truly within the reach of every child.


Alliance for Economic Inclusion, on the move in Kansas City

By Melinda Lewis
Wednesday, September 9, 2015

AEDI is excited to be part of the Alliance for Economic Inclusion, a dynamic coalition of financial services providers, community organizations, federal regulators, and concerned leaders who have come together to catalyze broad prosperity and upward mobility for a generation of Kansas City's children. Here, we share some of the promising progress emerging from the Alliance's efforts.


Student Debt and Asset Building: State Asset Learning Cluster Convening

By Melinda Lewis
Monday, August 17, 2015

I presented the thesis of our book, The Real College Debt Crisis, at the State Asset Learning Cluster in St. Louis, MO on August 6, 2015. With a group of innovative and committed asset practitioners and advocates, I spent the day talking about our debt-dependent financial aid system, evidence of its effects on family balance sheets and financial well-being, and how the growing discontent with student debt may present openings for those seeking new momentum for progressive asset approaches to economic mobility and broader security. Here, I share my presentation from the day's convening along with links and reflections from others' contributions. Thank you for the invitation, SALC leaders, and to the Charles S. Mott Foundation for making the gathering possible.


Predictably Irrational: How behavioral economics could increase engagement in CSAs

By Melinda Lewis
Tuesday, August 11, 2015

We've been reading a lot at AEDI this summer, and we're brimming with ideas from the smart thinkers whose insights we've perused. One of those is Dan Ariely, whose book Predictably Irrational has some really fascinating implications for CSAs' critical challenge of engaging children and families as active savers. We share some of our emerging thoughts about the applications for CSAs here, and we welcome the conversation, particularly from any of our readers who have heard Ariely speak or read his books, blog, or papers. Maybe looking at the 'hidden forces that shape our decisions' holds one of the keys to unlocking families' saving.


New (short!) Videos from The Real College Debt Crisis event

By Melinda Lewis
Monday, August 3, 2015

Our sincere thanks to our colleagues at New America for the production of these two short videos from our event discussing The Real College Debt Crisis: How Student Borrowing Threatens Financial Well-Being and Erodes the American Dream. We hope this format proves useful to those interested in engaging in conversation about the book's central thesis--the need for a new approach to financial aid, as an investment in an equitable and powerful economic mobility system. Please share!


Mutual Support Can Strengthen CSA Policy Work

By Anthony Poore
Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Anthony Poore is Deputy Director, Community Development and Financial Institution Outreach, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. In this role, he has convened and continues to facilitate the New England Children's Savings Account Consortium, a unique, growing, and influential regional approach to catalyzing CSA development. AEDI appreciates Anthony's leadership in the CSA field in New England and nationally, and his willingness to share reflections here. We have been grateful for this partnership and look forward to what's next for New England!


Coverage of The Real College Debt Crisis

By Melinda Lewis
Tuesday, July 21, 2015

We are so grateful to our colleagues at New America for their gracious and skilled hosting of two events last week related to the release of our book, The Real College Debt Crisis: How Student Borrowing Threatens Financial Well-Being and Erodes the American Dream. Here, we share some of the media coverage generated by the events, to date, and welcome your comments and questions about the book, how we see student debt's effects on equity and economic mobility, and how Children's Savings Accounts might serve as a viable alternative to debt-dependent financial aid. We so appreciate the opportunity to have this conversation!


Employee Benefits: A New Tool for Institutionalizing CSAs?

By Melinda Lewis
Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A growing number of employers are offering payroll deductions into college savings accounts, and many are even matching employees' contributions. While these benefits are currently more likely available to those already economically advantaged, this approach offers a potential avenue for entrenching education savings into the U.S. policy and institutional structure, as well as increasing the capital with which millions of American children confront college.


The Real College Debt Crisis and the Downward Mobility of Millennials

By Reid Cramer
Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Reid Cramer is Director of the Asset Building Program at New America. Here, in a reflection on the forthcoming book by Dr. William Elliott III, with Melinda lewis, he shares his thoughts on the effects of student debt on the financial fortunes of a generation of young adults. The book is available here.


Bottlenecks, On-Ramps, and Upward Mobility

By Melinda Lewis
Monday, June 29, 2015

Discussion in both Robert Putnam's Our Kids and Joseph Fishkin's Bottlenecks suggests a need for multiple avenues to upward mobility and economic prosperity, if we are to construct an opportunity landscape that supports broader success. This widening of the path could take many forms--in education, reentry, financial services, labor market retraining--and Economic Mobility Accounts could play a key role in reshaping these channels, too. Here, some reflections on bottlenecks, the importance of diverse on-ramps, and how reducing the stakes could improve outcomes.


Equipping Kids with Social Skills: Role for CSAs

By Melinda Lewis
Thursday, June 25, 2015

One of the key points from Robert Putnam's book Our Kids is the importance of social/emotional capabilities, in determining children's success. These key elements are among the most pernicious sources of the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children, and the most resistant to traditional, school-based interventions. Landmark research by the Center for Social Development at Washington University has demonstrated CSAs' effects on children's social and emotional well-being, with profound implications for their academic achievement and life chances. Here, some thoughts about how analysis of the 'soft skills' gap should incorporate an emphasis on asset development, and why CSAs may be a particularly promising approach, then, to supporting equitable opportunities for all those we should consider our kids.


The Real College Debt Crisis

By William Elliott
Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Next month, Dr. Elliott and Melinda Lewis travel to New York City and Washington, DC for the release of the book, The Real College Debt Crisis: How Student Borrowing Threatens Financial Well-Being and Erodes the American Dream, at events with partners at New America. Here, Dr. Elliott shares his analysis of the significance of today's debt-dependent college financing and makes the case for a scientific revolution in financial aid.


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New Book Released

Today’s student loan system is in place because of a political compromise, and growing discontent with student debt may signal that this arrangement has run its course. While there are resources and organizations in place to help those struggling with debt, the time has come to consider a new direction for financial aid, William Elliott III and Melinda Lewis argue in “Student Debt: A Reference Handbook.”

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