Opinion

Guest Commentary: Why we’re trying to pass the Earn to Learn program

Posted 10/28/21

Students in the U.S. must be given the opportunity to gain a college education and develop sound financial literacy without fear of overwhelming debt, and Arizona has been a leader in this effort …

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Opinion

Guest Commentary: Why we’re trying to pass the Earn to Learn program

Posted

Students in the U.S. must be given the opportunity to gain a college education and develop sound financial literacy without fear of overwhelming debt, and Arizona has been a leader in this effort through the Earn to Learn program.

For nearly a decade, Arizona’s Earn to Learn program has been helping make college a reality for local students — most of whom graduate with little or no student-loan debt. That’s why it’s so important to pass the Earn to Learn Act, which will give Congress the opportunity to make this same matched-savings model available to students nationwide.

Here’s how it works: Qualifying low-income students set aside up to $500/year of their own savings. In return, they’re able to access $4,000/year in matching financial assistance from university, philanthropic, and public sources — an 8:1 match.

As a condition of receiving Earn to Learn aid, participating students complete financial literacy training, and have access to success coaches and business mentorship programs to help complete their education and secure a job in their chosen field.

Nationwide, the average high school graduate will accrue nearly $40,000 in student-loan debt before finishing college. Total student-loan debt in the U.S. has reached an estimated $1.7 trillion, and 3,000 borrowers default every day.

For countless other would-be college attendees, rising tuition and related expenses discourage them from even applying.

Earn to Learn addresses these challenges head-on; nearly two-thirds of program participants are the first in their family to attend college, and colleges thrive with a diverse student body. More than 4 in 5 Earn to Learn scholars graduate within six years, far better than the national average of 60%.

College isn’t right for everyone, but higher education has remained one of the surest ways for someone to improve their life. College graduates tend to earn more than their peers with a high school diploma alone, experience lower rates of unemployment, and are less reliant on welfare and public assistance.

Labor shortages are a critical challenge across the Northeast Valley. Employers in Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, and across Arizona are looking for college graduates to join their workforce.

The same is true among employers nationwide. The Earn to Learn Act meets these diverse needs by including career and technical schools among eligible institutions for participants.

Passage of the Earn to Learn Act will create at least 250,000 additional scholarship opportunities over the course of five years. The legislation will directly help Americans who might otherwise be bogged down in student-loan debt or forgo their college dreams entirely.

Congress must work to expand access for education across America. It’s time to stop just talking about college affordability — Congress should pass the Earn to Learn Act.

Editor’s Note: U.S. Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) represents the 6th Congressional District and is a co-sponsor of the Earn to Learn Act. Kate Hoffman is the CEO and founder of Earn to Learn.

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