Learning Accounts

Program basics

  • Provides low-income students in early high school with financial aid conditional on continuing their education
  • Students can accumulate financial benefits upon hitting certain benchmarks (passing each grade)
  • Accumulated aid is paid out when the student is accepted into a postsecondary education program (via periodic installments, such as each semester).

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)

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Proven (highest tier)

Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by Social Programs That Work


Target population

Low- and moderate-income adults and families

Program cost

Approximately $2,380 per student

Implementation locations

  • New Brunswick, Canada

Dates active

2004-2011

Outcomes and impact

  • Increased high school graduation rate
  • Increased rate of postsecondary education completion

Keys to successful implementation

  • Begin recruitment as early as possible, ideally at the beginning of high school.
  • Use private channels for recruitment and enrollment, such as direct emails or texts; public events should be used to raise general awareness, rather than as a key recruitment tactic.
  • Provide, at minimum, enough funding to cover the entirety of community college enrollment, or, when possible, up to two-thirds of tuition at an in-state, public university.
  • Guarantee program funding for each participant through a well-known, established, and reputable source, such as the mayor’s office, rather than as part of a new, unfamiliar initiative.
  • Consider pairing learning accounts with career education and training programs – students can then plan to apply their learning account funds more confidently and make informed choices.
  • Prioritize engaging with the most marginalized members of the broader population you seek to serve, using direct outreach and nontraditional recruitment methods as needed.
  • Structure the program as first dollar funding, meaning it will be there to help students start the process of paying for education, rather than covering the remaining costs after additional financial aid may have been earned.
  • Send frequent (quarterly) communications to students and their families updating them on how much is in the account and reminding them of any conditions needed to retain and continue to increase that funding.

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