Learning Accounts

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help address educational disparities. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • 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).
Issue Areas
K-12 education
Cost per Participant
Approximately $2,380 per student

Evidence and impacts


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

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

Best practices in 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.