ONAC Provides Three Programs:
1. Mini-grants for Native asset builders to fund various asset building programs (ONAC has grant administration systems in place, provides technical assistance to grantees, and has funded twenty-one grants, $70,000 total, since 2014, to tribes and Native nonprofits in Oklahoma).
2. Professional development for Native asset builders and program building (planning and hosting our annual conference; offering free technical assistance to our constituents as they design and implement asset building programs; submitting administrative policy guidance requests; conducting evaluation of asset building programs; providing research on Children's Savings Account programs; and participating in state and national advisory groups related to tax policy, women and wealth, child support, Native financial education, and racial equity).
3. Children’s Savings Accounts, CSAs (opening and funding CSAs for Native youth to help them build a nest egg of savings). For this program, ONAC works with nineteen tribal and Native nonprofit partners to host account opening events. To date, ONAC has raised funds to open 690 accounts. These accounts help address the racial wealth gap and low college graduation rates in Indian Country (only 14% of American Indian students age 25 or older have a college degree-less than half the national average, according to the American Indian College Fund). Instilling young people with the habit of saving is proven to have long-term benefits. In The College Savings Initiative, a joint project between the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis and the New America Foundation in Washington, DC, researchers found that “in multivariate analysis, youth who expect to graduate from a four-year college and have an account are about seven times more likely to attend college than youth who expect to graduate from a four-year college but do not have an account.” (Elliott, W. and Beverly, S. (2010). The Role of Savings and Wealth in Reducing “Wilt” between Expectations and College Attendance. Journal of Children & Poverty, 17(2), 165-185. Also available at https://csd.wustl.edu/Publications/Documents/WP10-01.pdf.)
The Children’s Savings Accounts are primarily opened through the Oklahoma 529 Savings Program and are culturally-relevant. To date, ten accounts have also been opened for Missouri tribal residents through the Missouri 529 Savings Plan. We provide Native-specific financial education, a Native arts project as part of the account opening events, and a food sovereignty component by providing organic gardening seeds to the youth who are opening CSAs. We have the capacity to open CSAs for Native youth regardless where they live in the United States. As of June 2018, ONAC has funded 537 accounts.
Please note that ONAC does not consider the Children’s Savings Accounts to be scholarships. Students do not apply to ONAC to receive the funds. As part of this community-based program, ONAC works with our tribal partners to open a number of accounts at the same time, at account-opening events, with a targeted population (i.e. all children in a tribally-administered Head Start program or all youth attending a tribal early childhood learning center).
ONAC believes there is benefit to offering the financial education to the youth and parents along with the hands-on opportunity of opening and managing a mainstream college savings account. (ONAC provides the initial seed deposit of $100 per account, the minimum opening deposit required by the Oklahoma 529 Savings Plan). With help opening the accounts and the seed deposit, the families have a mechanism for college savings and are motivated to save for their child’s post-secondary education costs. Through this process, the families grow their financial capability, the parents may increase their expectations that their child will go to college, and the youth may think it is more of an option for them to go to college (aspirational change). These account help create a pipeline to college.
As part of the program, the youth receive a culturally-relevant financial education booklet. In the booklet, the youth guide a coin through a maze to a piggy bank; enjoy a word find as they search for words describing tribal assets (culture, language, land, regalia, community, family, homes, land); complete sentences about tribes and their CSA; count coins and match the totals to amounts listed; note their future savings goals; think about a history of saving in their families and tribes and describe how they want to share with others now and in the future; list the tribes in Oklahoma and mark where their tribal seat of government is located (focusing on tribal sovereignty as a Native asset); and draw assets of value to them. With parental permission, ONAC has included artwork in an ONAC desk calendar to promote talking about assets throughout the year. In the future, we would like to have an art exhibit to showcase the artwork from Native youth in the program.