A program to help low-income students afford college at Arizona's three public universities is being presented before members of a U.S. Department of Treasury commission with the goal of expanding the program.
The AZ Earn to Learn program began last year and aims to teach financial responsibility and money management to low-income students, then reward them with scholarship money to the state's public universities.
"We're excited to present this to the Treasury, the commission is particularly interested in how we encourage financial literacy among our youth and our young adults," said Eileen Klein, president of the Arizona Board of Regents. "They're very intrigued with this program because of the combination of combining college scholarship dollars with financial education."
Klein will meet with members of the Financial Literacy Commission in Washington D.C. on Wednesday with the hopes of adapting a nationwide version of the program and expanding it here in Arizona.
About 71 percent of families are not financially prepared to afford college for their children, Klein said, so the program helps teach proper financial management skills, which in turn can help students throughout the course of their lives.
"Students learn about financial education (and) financial literacy, and they go through some coursework," she said. "At the end of that, then they apply for a scholarship program and they open a savings account in their name."
Those courses include lessons on how credit and loans work, how to manage money accounts and how to save money.
Klein said after students open their savings account, they can receive a college scholarship made up of state and federal dollars, which is matched at a rate of eight to one.
"They start a savings account and save up to $500 on their own, and once they've done that after six months of saving, then they are eligible for $4,000 in scholarship funds," she said.
But the education and benefits don't end there.
Klein said once students enroll in AZ Earn to Learn, they can get ongoing financial education classes and one-on-one mentoring with certified financial counselors. She added that the training is even available to the student's family as well.
"It kind of an all-in effort to make sure that students have the financial acumen to be able to manage their own money matters," she said. "It also is a great opportunity then to get matched with some federal scholarship opportunities."
The program is available for students that are under 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is currently $23,850 for a family of four.
Klein noted many other university have demonstrated interest in adopting similar programs, and she hopes meeting with Treasury officials in Washington D.C. could help bring national attention to the program.