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Adult students need more financial support

Education is the pathway to a better, more secure life. It’s how families break the pattern of generational poverty. It’s how we grow as individuals in ways we wouldn’t otherwise, and how our communities and economies thrive.

Few would argue this. And today in Arizona, only 46% of adults hold a postsecondary degree or certificate. Knowing there are many paths to higher education, Arizona could be doing more to support adult learners as they pursue higher education. As a single mother, it took me 10 years to get to where I am today – having completed my GED, associate degree and most recently my bachelor’s degree. And it took a village to help me through it.

Ana Chavarin

Part of that village was Earn to Learn. If I saved $500 every year, Earn to Learn would give me $4,000 toward my education expenses, including tuition and books. These funds were a lifesaver – I probably wouldn’t have been able to earn my bachelor’s degree without this assistance. It was a huge relief to have the funds – they allowed me to focus on learning and not worry about how I was going to pay.

But funds weren’t the only thing I received from Earn to Learn. Workshops and other training opportunities helped me understand everything from how to buy a house to how to manage a credit card. And success coaches answered my every question about college life and helped me stay on track throughout my learning.

But Earn to Learn and other incredible programs like it can’t provide this much-needed aid without funding.

Now Arizona has the chance to support this life-changing program. A state investment of $3 million would allow an additional 1,500 students to pursue higher education and secure their future. Since 2013, Earn to Learn has supported more than 2,000 thousand students, many just like me. But with more financial support they could reach even more students that face hurdles in their path to postsecondary completion.

I was an adult when I went back to school. I know firsthand how hard it is to balance school with raising a family, holding down a job and the many other things life demands. But if we don’t give adults the help they need to earn a degree, our state will suffer. Because education, like poverty, is generational. With every new degree I earned, I proudly hung it in my home and told my children, “Nothing less than this. If I can get this, you can, too.”

With the help of Earn to Learn, and many others, I completed my bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology in 2021. I’m hoping to find a way to graduate school so that I can become a therapist and help those who have suffered abuse and trauma. In the meantime, I’m working in community organizing and I know that having my bachelor’s degree will open so many doors and inspire my children. My college experience has given me even more than that. I’ve gained so much confidence and knowledge.

Education changes lives. It changes families. And it changes communities. But college is expensive. We must support more students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to pursue a college education. We must invest in programs that get people out of poverty by helping them grow. By helping these individuals, we’ll help our neighborhoods, cities and all of Arizona.

Ana Chavarin graduated from Pima Community College in 2014 and University of Arizona in 2021. 


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