HARAHAN, La. (3/21/11)--ASI FCU, Harahan, La., has teamed with two partners to offer "Bridge to Start," a savings program that addresses the growing gap between family income and higher education costs as well as helps low-income families develop a savings habits and invest in their children's future. ASI, KIPP Renaissance High School and the Keller Family Foundation developed the program for families with children enrolled in KIPP, located in the Ninth Ward, according to the Louisiana Credit Union League (eNews March 16). The credit union and school, with a grant from the Keller Family Foundation, will provide a 2:1 match, up to $50, for participating families. Those who save $50 can end up with $100. KIPP has pledged $30,000 of its own funds to participate in the match. ASI is encouraging families to open savings accounts for their students and make deposits as they can afford monthly. At the conclusion of the academic year, the families' accounts--including matched funds--will be placed into Student Tuition Assistance and Revenue Trust (START) accounts through the State of Louisiana's 529 Program. START accounts are tax-free education savings accounts that allow families to earn interest on their college savings. The credit union noted the rising cost of higher education is an almost insurmountable barrier to low-income families, who remain underserved by the financial community. Many don't own bank accounts and resort to using fringe financial services such as payday lenders for basic financial tasks--which further reduces their ability to save for college. Such decisions prevent savings and asset accumulation and lead to a financial cycle of poverty that can have detrimental effects on first-generation college students struggling to balance attending class, studying and working part-time. One effect is an increase in college dropout rates. Over time, the "Bridge to Start" will strengthen the financial health of the families by equipping them with financial education and assisting KIPP Renaissance High School and KIPP New Orleans Schools in their goal to produce more than 1,000 first-generation college graduates by 2022. "The objective of this program is to give disadvantaged families an opportunity not only to save for college, but to help underbanked or unbanked families be brought into the financial mainstream," Mignhon Tourne, ASI FCU CEO, told the league.