Moving America Forward

How an Innovative Scholarship Encourages Low-Income Families to Save

March 25, 2014
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How an Innovative Scholarship Encourages Low-Income Families to Save
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Arizona students receive valuable scholarship funds and lifelong financial skills.

When bills for food, housing, and transportation consume most, if not all, of a low-income family’s money, saving for college can seem impossible. But some think that society is so convinced of poor peoples’ inability to save that they aren’t giving them a fair shot by encouraging them to do so. And that a good saving habit, once established, will help these people in college and beyond.

A new program in Arizona, AZ Earn to Learn, provides low-income families with college scholarships while rewarding them for doing their own saving for school. The program, which currently exists in all three of Arizona’s state universities, provides low-income students with a $4,000 scholarship each year. In return, the students and their families must attend financial literacy workshops and save $500 of their own money toward college each year.

So far 1,500 scholarships at Arizona State, the University of Arizona, and Northern Arizona University have been funded through a $3.47 million grant from the Assets for Independence Program which the universities are matching with their own funding.

Katrina Verduzco, who is a freshman at the University of Arizona and the first in her family to attend college, told Michael Stratford of Inside Higher Ed, “I had never saved a dollar in my life,” but “If someone says they’re going to give you $4,000, you do it.” She put together the required annual $500 by working three part-time jobs. By combining this grant with Pell Grants, she’s able to attend college loan-free, saving herself from massive future debt.

Because of this important encouragement through AZ Earn to Learn, Verduzco sounds like she’s well on her way to breaking the cycle of poverty for good.

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