Outside P.S. 398 in Queens, students are learning to budget. They can use green slips of paper as money to buy everything from books to services — like help with classroom chores.

Queenie Tong was one of the many parents volunteering to help students learn a little bit about spending and saving.

What You Need To Know

  • An event at a Queens elementary school highlighted a program meant to help students pay for college

  • Starting last year, NYC Kids Rise has opened a college scholarship account with $100 in it for every kindergartner whose parents do not opt out

  • The event also worked to teach students about the importance of budgeting

“They can shop for art, they can also shop for candies, and of course — saving for college,” Tong said.

It might not be as fun as candy, but the event’s goal was to highlight the importance of saving for college, and these students have a head start thanks to a partnership between the city and the non-profit NYC Kids Rise, which beginning last school year has provided every kindergartner with $100 in a college scholarship account.

“We know that a child with a college savings account of between $100 to $500 is three times more likely to go to college and four times more likely to graduate,” Sideya Sherman, commissioner of Mayor’s Office of Equity, said.

“By now every kindergarten, first grader in public school in New York City has an NYC scholarship account unless their family decided that they didn't want it. That means that there is more than $90 million already accumulated for the educational futures of our students,” Debra-Ellen Glickstein, founding executive director of NYC Kids Rise, said.

Parents can unlock more money when they activate the account, and when they open their own connected 529 college savings account, where their deposits will be matched up to $100.

“We would just do an automatic direct deposit to it every now and then to make sure that their money is safe for him in the future,” Tong said.

Her son Parker put some of his fake money into savings for college, and also spent four bucks on a homework pass.

“When you use a homework pass you have no homework so I can play my Nintendo Switch,” Parker said.

In addition to helping students learn to budget, Veronica Sosa, the first grade dual language teacher who spearheaded the event, says it was also aimed at making parents aware the accounts were available — to everyone.

“We also wanted to make sure that it was a big event for the family so that when they're coming in to learn about this program, they understand that it's not just for students who are from here, but it's equitable access for all, that it doesn't matter your immigration status,” she said.

For more information about these accounts, parents can visit nyckidsrise.org.