/ Modified oct 19, 2016 7:21 a.m.

Arizona Program Helps College Students 'Earn to Learn'

1,000 enrolled at UA in matching savings funds to help with tuition, other expenses.

Earn to Learn schools spot (PHOTO: Courtesy of earntolearn.org)
By Brooke Goldstein, AZPM Intern

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Some incoming college freshman attending Arizona’s state universities are getting a boost from a savings and financial aid program.

When Katrina Verduzco was a senior in high school she saw money as the biggest obstacle to going to college.

Then she learned about the “Earn to Learn” program at the University of Arizona and saw a way over the biggest hurdle standing between her and a college degree.

“I really want to go to college and I’m going to figure out how to get there. And I wasn’t going to take no for an answer,” she said.

Earn to Learn is a savings program that allows students from low-income backgrounds to pay for tuition, books and other school-related expenses. Once they enroll at one of Arizona’s three state universities, they are eligible to receive $8 for every $1 saved, and up to $4,000 in matching funds.

Over 70 percent of Arizonans do not have money set aside for their children’s education, according to a report on the program’s website, which makes it difficult for many to continue their education past high school.

Cynthia Verduzco, Katrina’s mother, wasn’t sure how she would afford to send and keep her daughter in school.

“When she gets the acceptance letter to UA, you’re so happy. But then your heart falls into your stomach because your first worry is, ‘How are we going to pay for this?’”

The program builds a support network by connecting students to campus and community opportunities, program Deputy Director Nicole Taylor said.

“We’ve had multiple students tell us that they didn’t even necessarily think college was possible until they heard of our program,” she said.

The program, which started with 70 students, is now working to give Katrina Verduzco and around 1,000 other students the financial and educational support needed to survive four years of college.

The program’s first cohort is set to graduate in May.

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