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Helios Education Foundation Helps Provide Low-Income Students with Opportunity to Pursue a Postsecondary Education

Posted on: November 17, 2014

AZ Earn to Learn (AZEL), an innovative savings to scholarship program at Arizona’s three state universities, has received a third round of funding from the Assets for Independence (AFI) program housed in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as well as an additional investment from Helios Education Foundation. The additional funding brings the total scholarship pool to nearly $12 million which equates to 2,500 scholarship opportunities for low-income students in Arizona.

AZEL provides eligible students with financial education, one-on-one financial coaching, college readiness training and ongoing financial literacy support. Students must also save $500 of their own money through an Individual Development Account (IDA), a special savings account proven to help low-income individuals develop assets such as homeownership, small businesses and higher education. When a student completes the program requirements, they receive an unparalleled 8:1 match of $4,000 in scholarship money per academic year - $2,000 from the federal government and $2,000 from the state universities.

“We are honored to be awarded another round of funding for AZEL which will allow us to grow the number of students who might not otherwise have access to higher education,” said Kate Hoffman, founder of AZEL and executive director of AZEL’s non-profit administrator Live the Solution. “Our sole focus is to increase access to higher education among disadvantaged students in Arizona and ultimately break the cycle of poverty through the benefits a college education offers.”

To qualify for AZEL, participants and their household must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level and meet the requirements for admission to ASU, NAU, or UA. AZEL is supported by a network of community collaborators that includes the Arizona Board of Regents; Arizona’s public universities – Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona; financial institution partners; high schools; community colleges; nonprofit partners; and the AFI program.

“AZ Earn to Learn is a truly innovative and groundbreaking program providing critical need-based aid to students who otherwise might not have access to higher education, better preparing them for the financial and academic rigor of university life,” said Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein. “I’m proud of our universities, which are leading the nation in this unique program.”

Arizona’s public universities were the first in the country among public universities to apply for federal funding to administer the AZEL savings to scholarship program using the IDA model. It is the largest federally funded AFI education IDA program in the country. AZEL continues to gain national attention as an innovative financial aid model given its financial literacy training, personalized success coaching, and unparalleled savings match. AZEL has been featured at a number of national conferences and meetings, including a U.S. Department of Treasury Financial Literacy and Education Commission meeting in February of this year.

AZ Earn to Learn also has received funding from Helios Education Foundation to conduct a strategic planning process. "We congratulate AZEL on the additional award of Federal funding. Helios Education Foundation is proud to be a partner with this program to help more low-income students achieve their post-secondary dreams," said Helios President and CEO Paul J. Luna. "It is critical that every student in Arizona have the opportunity to access and complete a post-secondary education and this program is helping break down financial barriers and empowering students and families to attain bright and successful futures."

Launched in January 2013, AZEL continues to grow and have a positive impact on students’ lives. Notable program statistics to date include:

  • Since inception (combined Fall 2013 and Fall 2014 cohorts) 290 students have successfully saved $145,000 and received $1,160,000 in match for a total postsecondary investment of $1,305,000 towards tuition, books, fees, and other approved education related expenses
  • 6,702 hours of financial education provided to 1,401 Arizona students as of mid-October
  • 85 percent of participants identify as an ethnic minority
  • 74 percent are first generation students
  • 68 percent are women
  • $25,230 is the median household income of students participating
  • Over 65 percent of participating students identified science, technology, engineering and math fields as majors

Category: Postsecondary Completion

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