Pre-kindergarteners at a Washington KIPP school. (Astrid Riecken/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

A pilot program will give students at KIPP urban charter schools college savings accounts — along with education about college readiness — in hope that college savings will inspire them to go to college.

The Partnership for College Completion is a collaboration of KIPP, a vaunted urban charter education provider; the United Negro College Fund; and the nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development. Promoters said in a news release that their initiative is the first of its sort to combine an incentive-based savings account, college-readiness education and scholarship aid into a comprehensive program.

An initial $7.5 million investment from Citi and the Citi Foundation will seed the program at KIPP schools in Washington, Chicago, Houston, New York and San Francisco. By the end of the 2012 academic year, the program will expand to at least 6,000 students and 28 schools, according to the news release.

“Our goal is to dramatically increase the number of first-generation students -- and those from low-to moderate-income families -- who obtain a college degree, while also bringing their families into the financial mainstream,” said Pam Flaherty, CEO of the Citi Foundation, in the release.

KIPP is a national network of charter schools, public schools under independent governance. Nearly all KIPP students are African-American or Latino. KIPP data show 85 percent of students who complete eighth grade attend college.

The heart of the program is a savings account opened for each student with a $100 “incentive” deposit. Contributions from the student’s family will be matched dollar for dollar up to $250 a year. The pilot includes an Internet portal to ease parent deposits.

Program directors cite research from the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis that found students with a college savings account, regardless of the amount saved, were seven times more likely than other students to attend and complete college.

The pilot will also award merit- and need-based scholarships to one-fifth of eligible students. Other components include financial education classes and a college-readiness curriculum from the University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute.