Senators from Utah and Arizona have teamed up on a bipartisan proposal to reduce student loan debt and make college more affordable.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., introduced a bill creating a college matched-savings program that would help low-income students pay for tuition, books, fees and other education-related expenses.
Romney said the U.S. must do better to ensure students have the skills and training necessary to pursue good-paying jobs that keep up with the changing economy.
“Our legislation will help students pursue their education by equipping them with the financial resources and knowledge they need to attend college, career and technical schools without the burden of being saddled with debt when they graduate,” he said.
Modeled after a successful program in Arizona, the Earn to Learn Act would set up educational savings accounts to allow students to save for higher education.
For every $1 a student contributes, a participating state or nonprofit organization would match with an additional $8. The money goes to the student’s chosen school upon enrollment. Participating states and nonprofits would receive grants to provide the tuition assistance and financial literacy training.
“Education was my key to opportunity, and I’m committed to ensuring all Arizona students have the same access to higher education that I did. Creating a college-matched savings program helps Arizona students save for school while teaching the importance of money-management,” Sinema said.
Kate Hoffman, founder and CEO of Earn to Learn in Arizona, applauded the senators’ efforts to make the program available to students across the country. She said it fosters economic opportunity for low-income families and helps break the cycle of multigenerational poverty.
The Arizona program has helped underserved and underrepresented students access and complete a college education for nearly a decade. Students, who must qualify for a Pell Grant, have a first-year retention rate of nearly 90%, and the majority graduate with little or no student debt.