Publication Date



For many children, especially minority and low-income children, attending college is a genuinely desired but elusive goal. Research on aspirations and expectations provides a way to understand the gap between what children desire and what they actually expect to happen. This study examines the potential role of children’s college accounts (CCAs) as a way to reduce the gap between aspirations and expectations among at-risk children. I find that only 39 percent of children without savings for college expect to attend college; there is an aspirations/expectations gap of 41 percentage points among children with CCAs. Moreover, children with a CCA are five percent more likely to expect to attend college than children without a CCA. It appears that when the financing of college is perceived to be under the child’s control, college attendance becomes a more plausible reality. Children with CCAs are not only more likely to attend college; they also perform better in school.

Document Type

Working Paper


Financial Inclusion


Asset Building

Original Citation

Elliott, W., III, & Wagner, K. (2008). Raising parent expectations: Can wealth and parent college accounts help? (CSD Working Paper No. 08-18). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.


I Can Save


college expectations, academic expectation, asset holding, asset effects, asset accumulation, child savings, college savings