Photo by Scott Kirkessner
Photo by Scott Kirkessner

Arizona Universities Launch Need-Based Scholarship Program

AZ Earn to Learn offers $3.1 million in scholarship funds for low-income students who complete a savings and financial education program.
Dec. 4, 2012

Arizona’s three state universities – Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona – in partnership with the Arizona-based non-profit organization Live the Solution – are launching AZ Earn to Learn, an innovative need-based financial aid program that pairs $3.1 million in scholarships with more than 700 students from low-income families. Participation in AZ Earn to Learn includes a savings plan and completion of financial literacy and college readiness training.

AZ Earn to Learn is funded with $1.55 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Assets for Independence program provided to the three state universities, each of which also will provide matching funds. This is the first time in the federal agency’s history that state universities have applied for and received matching funds for a scholarship program of this nature.

The UA, the recipient of the largest share of the grant funding, will receive $1 million.

“AZ Earn to Learn is a groundbreaking initiative that will provide critical need-based aid to students who otherwise might not have access to higher education, better preparing them for the financial and academic rigor of university life,” said Arizona Board of  Regents Chairman Rick Myers. “I am extremely proud that our state universities are leading the nation in this unique program. AZ Earn to Learn will help students achieve financial security by developing strong savings habits and acquiring a lasting asset: a university education.”

The UA is expected to be able to support 462 families through AZ Earn to Learn, said Michael Staten, principal investigator on the UA’s grant and executive director of the University’s Take Charge America Institute for Consumer Financial Education and Research.

“This community outreach program is a great example of the University of Arizona’s land-grant mission in action,” said Staten, a professor in the John & Doris Norton School of Family and Consumer Sciences. “We expect this program to open the door to college access for many families who dreamed of college but never thought they could afford it. The matching-grant component rewards their commitment to save.”

To be eligible for AZ Earn to Learn, students must meet the separate and distinct, individual university requirements. Students’ families must earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level; participants must save at least $25 per month in a special Individual Development Account, or IDA, for a minimum of six months after enrolling in the program; and participants must complete financial education classes and receive one-on-one financial coaching and college readiness training. Eligible students then will qualify to receive $8 for every $1 they save; $4,000 in matching funds – $2,000 from the federal grant and $2,000 from the university – can be used for tuition, books and approved education-related expenses at one of the three state universities.

“This is a supplement in addition to whatever students would be eligible for in terms of financial aid,” Staten said. “This is just one more tool they have available to them to enable attendance at one of the state universities.”

Live the Solution, a non-profit asset building organization, will partner with the universities in administering the AZ Earn to Learn program and offering financial education to participants. 

“AZ Earn to Learn will help give students a leg-up on their educational costs while giving them the tools they will need later in life for good financial planning,” said Kate Hoffman, executive director of Live the Solution. “Learning to save at an early age is invaluable to future financial well-being and a proven way to make a lasting impact on families’ lives.”

The key to a successful IDA is partnering with financial institutions to host the accounts, providing volunteers to teach personal finance classes, offering online financial education and donating funding or in-kind services. Alliance Bank of Arizona will serve as one of the strategic financial institution partners for AZ Earn to Learn, training its customer service associates on the program and offering students unique accounts with no fees.

“Alliance Bank is proud to be part of this innovative program,” said Jim Lundy, chief executive officer of Alliance Bank of Arizona. “Our alliance with the AZ Earn to Learn initiative underscores our commitment to investing in local education initiatives and the future economic development of Arizona’s workforce.”

The Arizona Community Foundation, or ACF, will serve as a communication partner for AZ Earn to Learn. 

“As Arizona’s largest private provider of scholarship funds, ACF is excited to share this great financial aid opportunity with students statewide and help them attend college with a lower cost burden,” said Steve Seleznow, president and chief executive officer of ACF.

Eligible participants can begin enrolling in AZ Earn to Learn immediately. For complete eligibility guidelines, program requirements and a step-by-step application, please visit the AZ Earn to Learn website.