Reps. Schweikert, Lee Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Reduce Student Loan Debt, Make College More Affordable

June 24, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Congressman David Schweikert (AZ-06) and Congresswoman Susie Lee (NV-03) introduced the Earn to Learn Act, legislation to establish a matched savings scholarship program for low-income students to pay for their education. The bill would grant qualifying students up to $4,500 per academic year to pay for tuition, books, and other educational expenses.

"Arizona is proving to be a national leader in promoting programs that provide critical resources to students who need it most, and I am pleased to introduce the bipartisan Earn to Learn Act to create a national program to help students finance their education and develop sound financial literacy," said Congressman Schweikert. "We need to continue thinking creatively about how to expand access for students to gain a college education, this proven methodology will add value to our country’s labor force, and ultimately grow the economy to keep America on top.”

“Education was my key to opportunity,” said Congresswoman Lee. “I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to pursue higher education, which I paid for through a combination of scholarships, loans, and part-time jobs. But the opportunity to pursue higher education is out of reach for thousands of bright young Americans. That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Earn to Learn Act. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will help give a new generation a better shot at paying for their higher education through a matched savings program while also supporting healthy financial habits.” 

“At a time when the majority of new jobs in this country require a post-secondary education, improving college access and completion rates is more vital than ever,” said Kate Hoffman, founder & CEO of Earn to Learn. “For nearly a decade, the Earn to Learn program has demonstrated it can be part of the solution – helping to make higher education a reality for thousands of low-to moderate-income students who may have believed a degree was out of reach. We thank U.S. Reps. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Susie Lee (D-Nev.), as well as our other program supporters in Congress, for their bipartisan efforts to bring this innovative model to a national scale through the Earn to Learn Act.” 

“At a time when there are more available jobs than workers to fill them, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry thanks Rep. Schweikert for this important legislation to develop new pathways to post-secondary education so that students can acquire the skills that will help them succeed in today’s economy," said Danny Seiden, president & CEO, Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

“Manufacturing is a critical, growing segment of the economy – and these employers depend on a well-trained and educated workforce. It is vital that we improve not only college access but also completion rates for low-to moderate-income students, and Arizona’s Earn To Learn program has demonstrated it can be part of the solution. The Arizona Manufacturers Council endorses the Earn to Learn Act and thanks U.S. Reps. Schweikert and Lee for their efforts to expand this winning program to students nationwide,” said Allison Grigg, Executive Director, Arizona Manufacturers Council.
 
“The majority of new jobs require some form of postsecondary degree or certification, yet a college education remains out of reach for too many deserving students. Greater Phoenix Leadership recognizes the importance of solving this challenge on behalf of these students and our shared economic future. We’ve seen firsthand how Earn to Learn is making college dreams a reality for low-income Arizona students, and look forward to seeing this same model expanded nationally with Rep. Schweikert’s Earn to Learn Act,” said Heather Carter, Executive Vice President, Greater Phoenix Leadership.

“Arizona State University strongly supports expanding access to higher education and efforts to make it more affordable which is precisely what the proposed Earn to Learn legislation will do. This innovative approach to provide tuition for lower-income students has resulted in increased retention of first-year students, improved completion rates, and debt free graduation. Expanding this program to a national scale will help improve college attainment rates and provides support for people across the country who greatly need it,” said Kent Hopkins, Vice President, Enrollment Management & Services, Arizona State University.

“Increased opportunities for college access and financial aid are important for Arizona students and their families. The Earn to Learn program has provided Arizona students with a unique way to save for their college education and plan ahead for their future. I thank Congressman Schweikert for supporting all students, and especially those from the University of Arizona, with innovative avenues to decrease the cost of pursuing higher education,” said Kasey Urquídez, Vice President, Enrollment Management, Dean, Undergraduate Admissions, University of Arizona.
 
“An educated workforce and strong economy go hand-in-hand. That’s why the Greater Phoenix Chamber is committed to policies that make postsecondary education possible for all students. Earn to Learn is a proven model helping low-to moderate-income Arizona students not only attend college but graduate with little to no student-loan debt. We’re eager to see these same opportunities extended to more students nationwide, and thank Rep. Schweikert for leading this bipartisan effort via the Earn to Learn Act,” said Todd Sanders, President & CEO, Greater Phoenix Chamber.

“The Arizona Community Foundation understands the importance of quality education for all. As an early supporter of Earn to Learn in Arizona, we are proud to support Earn to Learn’s successful model that has resulted in substantial reductions in student borrowing, higher graduation rates, and significantly higher grants aid through the program’s 8:1 match. ACF will continue to support this matched-savings program enabling students to attend college without accumulating tremendous debt,” said Steve Seleznow, President and CEO, Arizona Community Foundation.
 
“APS has supported Earn to Learn in Arizona for several years because we are committed to ensuring all students in Arizona have opportunities to succeed. Increasing the number of Arizonans holding a postsecondary degree is an economic imperative for our state and Earn to Learn gets us closer to that goal. This isn’t a nice to do, it’s a must do if we want to compete in the new economy,” said Jeff Guldner, Chairman and CEO, Arizona Public Service (APS).

“We are seeing tremendous benefits and successes for our students participating in the Earn to Learn college matched-savings pilot program. Our students are learning important money management skills while developing a financial safety net to set them up for a better future. Most importantly, however, is the potential for this program to provide much-needed additional financial support to community college students in Arizona and elsewhere that doesn’t exist today. We are seeing more and more students opting out of higher education, citing the full cost of attendance beyond what Pell might cover as the primary culprit. Even more so during the pandemic, students face tough decisions to buy food and pay rent or attend college.  We are excited about the possibility of increasing access by expanding this program to new students through the passage of Rep. Schweikert’s Earn to Learn Act," said Dr. Steven R. Gonzales, Interim Chancellor, Maricopa County Community College District.

“Earn to Learn is an exceptionally effective program, not only helping students from low-income families access matched savings for higher education, but also supporting them along the way with financial skill-building and college success coaching. Western Alliance is proud to have been an original supporter of this effort in Arizona, and now we fully support Congressman Schweikert’s bill to establish the national ‘Earn to Learn Act’ so students across the country can benefit from this groundbreaking approach to making college more attainable," said Tim Boothe, COO, Western Alliance Bank.

 

“The Earn to Learn Act exemplifies a collaborative and unique solution that will create multi-generational change through making post-secondary education and job training accessible, while simultaneously staving off significant debt. The Tucson Metro Chamber knows having a strong workforce and future talent pipeline are critical for all industries and applauds Congressman Schweikert’s leadership in fostering bipartisan support for this important initiative," said Amber Smith, President & CEO, Tucson. Metro Chamber.

 

 

“I think of the Earn to Learn scholarship as a ‘bootstrap’ program that allows students to lift themselves up.  It helps low-income students afford college without going into debt, whether or not they are academically gifted, and through the program’s financial literacy component, Earn to Learn helps students learn money management skills that they’ll be able to use the rest of their lives.  Pima Community College is excited to partner with Earn to Learn to benefit our own students, and we support making this scholarship available to other colleges,” said Lee D. Lambert, Chancellor, Pima Community College.

 

“Earn to Learn helps children from lower-income families overcome barriers that might keep them from attending the college of their choice and realizing their potential. We've been supporters of Earn to Learn for many years and would love to see more children have an opportunity to benefit from the program,” said Susan Gray, President & CEO, Tucson Electric Power and UniSource Energy Services.

 

“We’ve had the pleasure of getting to know several Earn to Learn scholars this year through a 1:1 mentoring program. Knowing we can make a difference for these talented students, who might become the next generation of science, technology, engineering, and math innovators is an honor. Thanks to Earn to Learn for empowering Arizona students to successfully complete college, preparing them to have even more options for important roles in our local workforce.  We hope to see this excellent program expanded nationally," said Jill German, Head of Pathology Customer Area, Roche Diagnostics Solutions.

 

“Freeport-McMoRan Foundation is proud to partner with Earn to Learn as they come alongside individuals to help navigate the ins and outs of earning a post-secondary degree. The expansion of the program to include community college students further opens the window of opportunity for them as they grow their skills and competencies by increasing their educational attainment," said Tracy Bame, President, Freeport-McMoRan Foundation.

 

Background:

This legislation is modeled off Arizona's Earn to Learn program, which has nearly a decade-long track record of helping underserved and underrepresented students access and complete a college education. 

Under the bipartisan Earn to Learn Act, qualifying students would be required to deposit $500 into an educational savings account to have each additional $1 contributed matched by $8 through combined university support and other public and philanthropic funding. As a result, this bill would help students graduating be ready to enter the workforce, with little or no student loan debt, and authorizes $100 million for FY 2021 and each of the following four years to help to carry out this bill’s provisions.

This bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) earlier this year.  

To read the full text of this legislation, click HERE


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