PHOENIX — An Arizona scholarship program could soon become a national model when it comes to helping students pursue higher education without going into debt.
Sam Sneed is now an official graduate of the University of Arizona's Public Health program. He is also an Earn to Learn scholar, one of more than 2,000 students in our state to take part in the matched-savings program since it started in 2013.
"It was very impactful," said Sneed. "Even how to buy a car, what loans you should be taking, like the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized."
Under the program, eligible students must complete personal finance training to even apply. They then work to save $500 per academic year, which Earn to Learn will match 8:1. That is $4,000 toward tuition or other needs.
"Housing, books, meal plans, parking, transportation," said Kate Hoffman, CEO and founder of Earn to Learn. "We have students that are coming up out of high school all the way up to students in their early 60s and every age in between."
Hoffman previously worked in the financial sector. She says empowering scholars to invest in their education and learn financial literacy are life skills that last well beyond graduation.
"We have now been approached by literally over 25 states, expressing an interest in replicating the model," said Hoffman.
They are not the only ones taking notice. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, along with former Republican Presidential Nominee turned Utah Senator Mitt Romney, introduced the "Earn to Learn Act" into the U.S. Senate on April 15.
If passed, it would establish a matched-savings program designed to support low-income students across the country.
The bill has now been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
"I mean it really did change my life," said Sneed, who now plans to change others' lives by attending medical school and working as a doctor in communities like Nogales or Rio Rico where he grew up.
"Higher education is associated with a higher income and higher income is associated with better health, more opportunities," said Sneed.
Students must qualify for at least $1 of Pell Grant aid and in-state tuition to be eligible. The funds can be used at ASU, NAU and UofA, or the Pima and Maricopa Community College Districts.
For more information, you can visit the Earn to Learn website.