Pima Community College announced a new partnership with Earn to Learn, a tuition scholarship program for Pell grant recipients, beginning in the 2020-2021 school year.

The Earn to Learn scholarship is a tuition-match program funded by philanthropic donations from Arizona public and private sector businesses. Earn to Learn is designed to help students avoid debt from school loans, and also teaches them how to better handle money. 

“It is designed to help make sure good financial habits occur well beyond the college years,” said Marcy Euler, president and CEO of the Pima Community College Foundation.

“It is a many-faceted approach to creating good long-term spending habits and understanding the value of money.”

Students engaging in Earn to Learn are instructed to save $500, which will be applied to the costs of attending the college. Each year they accumulate their $500, Earn to Learn will provide an 8-to-1 matching scholarship of $4,000. Students have at least six months to save up the $500. Earn to Learn’s “Success Coaches” can even help students set up a savings plan to reach their goal. The grant covers tuition and other school-related expenses.

There are several steps to obtain Earn to Learn financial assistance. First, students must complete an intake application, then they must complete an online financial literacy module. The students then meet with financial consultants hired by Earn to Learn. All students must produce their FAFSA student aid report to be eligible. 

Applicants must complete the intake form by Friday, Oct. 25, and the financial-literacy module by Friday, Nov. 1, to be in the program for the Fall 2020 semester.

Recipients are also required to complete 30 credits by the end of summer 2021. Students must be degree-seeking Arizona residents. The program is open to people of all ages, including those currently finishing high school. However, due to federal law, financial need is determined by the applicants’ parent’s income if they are under 24-years-old as of Dec. 31, unless the student fits one of the exception categories. 

Kate Hoffman, Executive Director of Earn to Learn said the platform “is able to measure behavioral change relative to a student’s overall financial health and wellness.”

Euler said she does not know how long Earn to Learn funding can sustain itself, but she has confidence based on the program’s success at the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University, which began in 2013.

Euler estimates 60 percent of PCC students are Pell-eligible and adds the program will “have the capacity to serve about 100 students give or take in the first year, fall 2020.”

The Earn to Learn Scholarship is not geared toward a specific major.

“We want to support students all the way through graduation. If the students are successfully completing all the program requirements, they have the opportunity to participate a second year and even a third year. It just depends what their track is,” Hoffman said. There is no grade point average requirement, but students must be enrolled at PCC and maintain “good academic standing.”

“Students who are taking on significant debt, it really hinders their ability to start their adult lives,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman also discussed the benefits she perceives businesses get from contributing to Earn to Learn.

“Businesses view it as an innovative workforce development strategy. We are trying to build a pipeline into the workforce,” Hoffman said. “They are viewing the students that we serve as future employees of these companies.”

Earn to Learn’s first-year retention rate is nearly 90 percent, and more than half of Earn to Learn students are first-generation college students.

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Phillip Bramwell is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.

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