Innovative Approaches to Financial Capability in Arizona

During National Financial Capability Month, we renew our drive to give all Americans the tools to navigate the financial world and gain the economic freedom to pursue their own measure of happiness.

-Presidential Proclamation, National Financial Capability Month, April 2014

The Arizona Board of Regents is on the forefront in furthering President Obama’s proclamation of National Financial Capability Month, in partnership with the ‘AZ Earn to Learn’ program.

Arizona is first state-level university system to apply for a grant through the federal Assets for Independence (AFI) program.  It is creating ladders of opportunity for its residents— many of whom are the first in their families to attend college.  Jacqueline Noriega and Katrina Verduzco are two of more than 300 students already enrolled in the program and working hard to ensure a better future for themselves and their families.

Noriega is pursuing her dream of becoming a detective in child abuse and child trafficking cases, studying criminology at Northern Arizona University.  Verduzco is majoring in psychology at the University of Arizona and works three part-time jobs.

Both young women credit AZ Earn to Learn as a main reason for being able to pursue their dreams.

Using an Individual Development Account model, AZ Earn to Learn allows college students to save and pay for tuition and other approved education-related expenses.  With a match rate of 1:8, the program matches $500 of a student’s earned income with a mix of AFI and university funding, totaling $4,000.

Noriega also expressed the relevance of financial coaching offered through the program, saying “I feel like they’ve been a very good help to me, especially my freshman year in college… they bring a lot of support one-on-one.”

Even though AZ Earn to Learn only launched 15 months ago, it has already attracted national foundation support.  Its umbrella organization, Live the Solution, is one of six entities nationwide selected by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) and the MetLife Foundation to test innovative savings strategies by low- and moderate-income individuals.  CFED will convene this Savings Innovation Learning Cluster to allow the members to share expertise and learn from one another as they refine their respective models.

Indeed, the Arizona Board of Regents and AZ Earn to Learn are groups we should all keep an eye on.

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