The Wells Fargo Foundation is joining efforts with Tucson-based Earn to Learn, the nation’s largest and most successful matched-savings scholarship program, to empower Indigenous and rural students in Arizona to pursue higher education. Recognizing the significant barriers to postsecondary education in Native and rural communities, grant funding from Wells Fargo will help connect hundreds of students with matched-savings scholarships and financial wellness resources to support educational success.
In Arizona and across the country, high school students in rural and urban communities graduate at similar rates, yet postsecondary enrollment and completion rates in rural areas are significantly lower. Further, Indigenous students are frequently left out of research and data reporting because Native Americans represent less than 1% of the undergraduate student population. According to the Postsecondary National Policy Institute, the little data that is available indicates 20% of Indigenous students receive bachelor’s degrees and 12% receive associate degrees.
To address this gap, Earn to Learn provides a match-savings scholarship that increases postsecondary enrollment and completion while ensuring students graduate workforce ready with little to no debt. The program complements traditional forms of financial aid that have proved insufficient to cover the total cost of college attendance. Each year, Earn to Learn students deposit $500 into a savings account and receive $4,500 in scholarships at an 8:1 match rate to help cover the total cost of college attendance, including tuition, room and board, childcare, and other living expenses.
“Over the past decade, Earn to Learn has worked tirelessly to address postsecondary attainment challenges, yet we know Indigenous students and students from rural areas are still consistently underrepresented at institutions of higher education,” said Kate Hoffman, founder and CEO of Earn to Learn. “Wells Fargo’s investment will go a long way in supporting Earn to Learn’s work to break down barriers for underserved students across Arizona.”
“Access to affordable higher education is a key driver of long-term financial stability and opens pathways to career advancement, entrepreneurship, and wealth building,” said Bonnie Wallace, head of financial health philanthropy at Wells Fargo. “We’re excited about this new effort with Earn to Learn to help remove barriers that limit rural and Native youth from realizing their goals which is essential for a more equitable society.”
The model includes success coaching programs to assist students in building financial wellness capabilities, college readiness, and workforce development opportunities. Earn to Learn partners with 4-year educational institutions and community colleges across the state to provide the Earn to Learn scholarship to low-income students of all ages enrolled in the partner institutions.
Since 2013, the program has provided over 6,422 matched-savings scholarships alongside financial and workforce training and success coaching. More than 60% of Earn to Learn students are first generation college students and 84% of students are BIPOC. By providing match-savings scholarships complemented with targeted success coaching, Earn to Learn students have received high-quality, personalized guidance and resources necessary to successfully navigate the college- going process, attain a postsecondary degree, and improve their economic opportunity, security, and mobility.