Earn to Learn

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Earn to Learn is a program at Arizona’s three universities that has helped thousands of students become first-generation college students. It’s a program where students save $500 and that is augmented by 800% with federal grant money and university scholarships. Kate Hoffman, executive director of Earn To Learn, will tell us more.

TED SIMONS: EARN TO LEARN IS A PROGRAM AT ARIZONA'S THREE UNIVERSITIES WHO HELP STUDENTS WHO MANAGE TO SAVE $500 HAVE THE FUNDS AUGMENTS WITH FEDERAL GRANTS AND UNIVERSITY SCHOLARSHIPS. HERE WITH MORE IS KATE HOFFMAN IS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF EARN TO LEARN. WELCOME TO ARIZONA HORIZON. GIVE ME A BETTER DEFINITION OF EARN TO LEARN. WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

KATE HOFFMAN: IT IS A FINANCIAL CAPABILITY SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM. IT IS REALLY STRUCTURED AROUND THE IDEA OF THE STUDENTS INVESTING IN THEMSELVES. SO THE STUDENTS WHO PARTICIPATE IN EARN TO LEARN, THEY INCOME QUALIFY FOR THE PROGRAM. THEY ESTABLISH A SAVINGS ACCOUNT AT ONE OF OUR PARTNER FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS. IN THAT SAVINGS ACCOUNTS THEY SYSTEMATICALLY SAVE TOWARD THE GOAL AS YOU STATED IT IS $500 PER STUDENT PER ACADEMIC YEAR. AND PREDICATED ON THEM SUCCESSFULLY COMPLETING THE PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS THEY RECEIVE $8 FOR EVERY $1 THEY SAVE. SO IT IS AN 800 PERCENT RETURN. WE ARE GETTING TREMENDOUS FEEDBACK FROM THE STUDENTS AND FAMILIES PARTICIPATING.

TED SIMONS: SO FIND A WAY TO SAVE $500 AND YOU CAN WIND UP WITH $4,000?

KATE HOFFMAN: THAT IS CORRECT.

TED SIMONS: THE MONEY COULD BE USED FOR WHAT? TUITION? BOOKS? WHAT CAN IT BE USED FOR? WHAT SHOULD IT NOT BE USED FOR?

KATE HOFFMAN: THE CURRENT FEDERAL FUNDING SUPPORTING THE PROJECT THROUGH THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES RESTRICTS THE SCHOLARSHIP FUNDS TO BE UTILIZED FOR TUITION, BOOKS AND FEES AND OTHER APPROVED EDUCATION RELATED EXPENSES AS STIPULATED BY THEIR GUIDELINES. THE MAJORITY ARE USED FOR TUITION, BOOKS AND FEES.

TED SIMONS: THE ACCOUNTS ARE WHAT THE KID PUTS INTO -- HOW MUCH -- IS THERE A MINIMUM BALANCE?

KATE HOFFMAN: THE WAY THE PROGRAM IS SETUP IS WE ARE OUT IN THE HIGH SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITY COLLEGES RECRUITING STUDENTS WHO INTEND TO GO TO ONE OF OUR THREE STATE UNIVERSITIES. ONCE WE HAVE IDENTIFIED THOSE STUDENTS WHO WANT TO COME FORWARD AND THE WAY WE DO THAT IS A COMPLETE, VERY QUICK ONLINE ASSESSMENT WE REFER TO AS THE PARTICIPANT SURVEY. THAT IS THE INITIAL INTAKE FORM. ONCE THEY SUCCESSFULLY DO THE NEXT INTAKE THERE IS ACTUALLY AN INTERESTING ADDITIONAL LAYER OF INVESTMENT INVOLVED IN THE FORM OF PERSONAL FINANCE TRAINING. WE HAVE PERSONAL FINANCE TRAINING AS A PREREQUISITE THE STUDENTS HAVE TO COMPLETE BEFORE APPLYING. ONCE THEY COMPLETE THAT STEP, THEN WE INVITE THEM IN AND WALK THEM THROUGH ALL OF THE STEPS OF THE PROGRAM AND START THE PROCESS OF INCOME QUALIFYING THEM. THIS IS A NEEDS-BASED SCHOLARSHIP.

TED SIMONS: I WAS GOING TO SAY FEDERAL POVERTY LEVEL -- HOW DOES THAT WORK?

KATE HOFFMAN: IT IS 200% OF THE FEDERAL POVERTY LEVEL AND BELOW ACCORDING TO THE FEDERAL GUIDELINES. A LOT OF TIMES WITHIN THE SCHOOLS IT IS STUDENTS WHO QUALIFY FOR FREE AND REDUCED LUNCH.

TED SIMONS: EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT INVOLVED AS WELL?

KATE HOFFMAN: THEY WOULD AUTOMATICALLY QUALIFY FOR THIS IF THEY QUALIFY FOR THE ITC.

TED SIMONS: IS THIS HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS ONLY?

KATE HOFFMAN: NO, WE HAVE THIS PROJECT OPEN TO COMMUNITY COLLEGE TRANSFER STUDENTS. AT NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY WE HAD A STUDENT WHO WAS 55 YEARS OLD AND PARTICIPATED IN EARN TO LEARN. THIS WAS EXCITING BECAUSE THIS PERSON CAME BACK TO SCHOOL AND EARN TO LEARN WAS THE CATALYST TO BRING THEM BACK.

TED SIMONS: HOW ABOUT GPA REQUIREMENTS?

KATE HOFFMAN: THEY HAVE TO BE ABLE TO BE ADMISSIBLE TO ONE OF OUR THREE STATE UNIVERSITIES BUT WE DON'T HAVE A MERIT OVERLAY ON THE SCHOLARSHIP.

TED SIMONS: SO ARIZONA RESIDENTS ONLY FOR THE STATE SCHOOLS. WHAT ABOUT DREAMERS?

KATE HOFFMAN: THE PROJECT IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FOR STUDENTS WHO QUALIFY FOR IN-STATE TUITION AND FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID. I HAVE HAD THAT QUESTION BEFORE. BUT DREAMERS AT THIS TIME DON'T QUALIFY FOR FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID SO THAT WOULD PREVENT THEM FROM MOVING FORWARD.

TED SIMONS: WHAT IF THE KID, THE STUDENT, WHOMEVER, CAN'T SAVE THE NEEDED $500?

KATE HOFFMAN: IN ORDER TO QUALIFY FOR THE PROGRAM PART OF THAT INCOME VERIFICATION PROCESS IS WE GO THROUGH A PROCESS WHERE WE VERIFY THEY HAVE EARNED INCOME SO THEY ARE ABLE TO MAKE THAT DEPOSIT IN THE ACCOUNT. WE HAVE HAD VERY FEW STUDENTS WHO LEFT THE PROGRAM BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT ABLE TO SAVE. THE ABSOLUTE VAST MAJORITY OF THEM, LIKE 99% OF THEM, HAVE REACHED THE SAVINGS GOAL.

TED SIMONS: THAT IS A LESSON IN AND OF ITSELF. THE IDEA OF SAVING, PUTTING INTO THE ACCOUNT, WATCHING OTHERS PUT INTO THE ACCOUNT AND MATCH AS WELL IS A LESSON BY ITSELF. YOU MENTION MOST KIDS AND STUDENTS GET THROUGH THIS. WHAT ABOUT THE STUDENT WHO DOESN'T COMPLETE IT? IS THIS FOR ONE SCHOOL YEAR?

KATE HOFFMAN: THIS PROGRAM ISN'T JUST ABOUT ACCESS TO THE UNIVERSITY. IT IS NOT JUST ABOUT RECRUITING ALTHOUGH THAT IS CRITICAL. IT IS ABOUT SUPPORTING THEM ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE GRADUATION. PREDICATED ON CONTINUED SUCCESSFUL PURSUIT OF FUNDING FOR THE PROGRAM ITSELF WE INTEND TO SUPPORT THEM ALL THE WAY THROUGH TO GRADUATION. THEY HAVE THE OPTION TO RENEW THEIR FRESHMAN YEAR, SOPHOMORE YEAR, JUNIOR YEAR, AND SENIOR YEAR. I AM EXCITED TO SHARE BECAUSE WE LAUNCHED IN JAN OF 2013 THIS IS THE FIRST YEAR WE HAVE SENIORS ON CAMPUS ACROSS THE STATE. SO MANY OF THESE STUDENTS ARE INDICATING THEY WANT TO PURSUE STEM DEGREES AND MEDICAL DEGREES. WE HAVE BIOMEDICAL ENGINEERS.

TED SIMONS: THE FIRST YEAR THE STUDENTS PUT IN $500 IT WAS MATCHED AND THEN SO ON OR IS IT JUST THE FIRST YEAR?

KATE HOFFMAN: NO, IT IS $500 PER ACADEMIC YEAR THAT YOU PARTICIPATE AND THEN THE 8-1 MATCH CARRIES FORWARD WITH THAT. IT COULD POTENTIALLY TRANSLATE INTO 16,000 IN SCHOLARSHIP FUNDING. IT GOES A LONG WAY TO HELPING STUDENTS OFFSET THE COST OF GETTING THE DEGREE.

TED SIMONS: HOW LONG HAS THE PROGRAM BEEN IN EFFECT?

KATE HOFFMAN: WE LAUNCHED IN JAN OF 2013. OUR FIRST COHORT WAS IN THE FALL 2013 AND THOSE ARE THE STUDENTS WHO ARE NOW SENIORS ON CAMPUS. WE HAVE OVER A THOUSAND STUDENTS IN ARIZONA ENROLLED IN THIS PROGRAM. I WANT TO SAY AS A SHOUT OUT TO OUR UNIVERSITY PARTNERS. THEY ARE THE FIRST UNIVERSITIES IN THE COUNTRY TO APPLY FOR THIS AND CREATE A SCHOLARSHIP LIKE EARN TO LEARN. THIS PROGRAM HAS GOTTEN A TREMENDOUS AMOUNT OF NATIONAL ATTENTION AND WE HAVE BEEN CONTACTED BY MULTIPLE STATES INTERESTED IN THIS PROJECT AND HOW THEY COULD POTENTIALLY IMPLEMENT THIS IN THEIR RESPECTIVE COMMUNITIES.

TED SIMONS: AND THE IDEA AT THE BOTTOM IS THERE ARE A LOT OF WAYS TO HELP PAY FOR EDUCATION OUT THERE. YOU JUST HAVE TO DO DIGGING AND FIND OUT ABOUT IT.

KATE HOFFMAN: THAT IS RIGHT. THIS IS A REALLY, TO ME, ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING MY BACKGROUND. I CAME FROM A FINANCIAL SERVICE SECTOR AND THIS MODEL RESONATED WITH ME. I FEEL LIKE THAT INVESTMENT ON THE PART OF THE STUDENT OR THE SKIN IN THE GAME ON THE PART OF THE STUDENT REALLY IS TRANSLATING INTO THEM HAVING GREATER BUY-IN TO THE PROCESS. I THINK IT IS INCREASING THEIR CONFIDENCE LEVEL SIGNIFICANTLY AS THEY ARE TRYING TO MANAGE THEIR OWN FINANCIAL SITUATION AS THEY ARE GOING THROUGH SCHOOL; RIGHT? SO MANY STUDENTS ARE FIRST-GENERATION STUDENTS AS YOU POINTED OUT. THEY ARE THE FIRST PERSON IN THEIR WHOLE FAMILY TO GO TO SCHOOL. THIS IS REALLY HELPING THEM THROUGH.

TED SIMONS: EARN TO LEARN?

KATE HOFFMAN: YES.

TED SIMONS: CONGRATULATIONS TO THE PROGRAM AND BEST OF LUCK. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

KATE HOFFMAN: THANK YOU SO MUCH.
 

Executive Director, Kate Hoffman.

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