For parents all over the country, the growing cost of college is looming concern. How will they pay for their child to get the education they need? Will they, or their child, have to incur debt to finance the venture? How will going to an out-of-state or private college impact the cost? These are all questions being asked as postsecondary education becomes more important than ever.
Thankfully, an Arizona group is aiming to help students graduate without student debt, and to help them be better able to manage their finances after graduation. Earn to Learn® is a program that combines student savings with scholarships, financial literacy, and success coaching to help low-income youth access higher education and graduate with little to no debt. This holistic approach, which incorporates college and workforce readiness training, is helping students to grow the skills they need to succeed.
Earn to Learn Video: What is Earn to Learn?
But as the saying goes, “there are no free lunches.” And so it is with Earn to Learn. Students who enroll are expected to save $500 of their own money, which is then matched by a factor of eight, meaning that they now have $4,500 per year for tuition and expenses at one of Arizona’s three state universities, including Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and University of Arizona.
Launched in 2013 with 70 students, the program is the first of its kind for public universities. Since then, Earn to Learn has grown to include more than 1,500 Arizona students. It’s serving families at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and is open to anyone who is coming out of high school or transferring from a community college. This high-risk population faces what seem like insurmountable obstacles when it comes to getting into and paying for higher education, which is what makes this program so valuable. Earn to Learn is opening the door to growth and opportunity, all through the student’s own hard work and dedication to completing the required personal finance training.
Once the student has enrolled, saved their own money and completed the financial training, they have the option to renew the support for all four years of their university experience. So far, participants have saved more than $1.5 million of their own money, and earned $12 million in return. Many are borrowing little or no money, and more than half are expected to graduate with little or no student debt.
It’s possible thanks to key funding partners, which include Western Alliance Bank, Charles Schwab Foundation, Citi Foundation, Arizona Community Foundation, Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona and many others.
And it’s already having a big impact. So far, 80 students have graduated with their college degree. And the freshman retention rate is over 90 percent. In fact, the initiative has been so successful that public and private colleges around the country are seeking to replicate the model.
Here’s what some had to say:
• “When I thought I wasn’t worth going to college, you showed me that I could make it. You are helping students achieve their dreams.” – Student saver
• “I never thought I could afford to send my children to college, but thanks to you, they’ll all have the opportunity to go.” – Parent