Rep. Susie Lee, Rep. David Schweikert Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Bill to Reduce Student Loan Debt, Make College More Affordable

June 24, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON — Today, Congresswoman Susie Lee (D-NV) and Congressman David Schweikert (R-AZ) introduced the Earn to Learn Act, legislation to reduce student loan debt and make college more affordable. This bipartisan bill establishes a college matched-savings program that helps low income students, including adult learners, pay for tuition, books, fees, and other education-related expenses. This bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) earlier this year.

“In this country, we believe that education is the key to opportunity,” said Congresswoman Lee. “It certainly was for me. I was able to go to college with the help of scholarships, loans, and part-time jobs. Yet, today, for so many bright young Americans, higher education is out of reach. That is why I am proud to introduce the Earn to Learn Act. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation gives a new generation a better shot at paying for higher education through a matched-savings program, and at the same time, supports healthy financial habits. It’s a win-win for our future.”

“Arizona is proving to be a national leader in promoting programs that provide critical resources to students who need it most, and I am pleased to introduce the bipartisan Earn to Learn Act to create a national program to help students finance their education and develop sound financial literacy,” said Congressman Schweikert. “We need to continue thinking creatively about how to expand access for students to gain a college education, this proven methodology will add value to our country’s labor force, and ultimately grow the economy to keep America on top.”

“At a time when the majority of new jobs in this country require a post-secondary education, improving college access and completion rates is more vital than ever,” said Kate Hoffman, founder and CEO of Earn to Learn. “For nearly a decade, the Earn to Learn program has demonstrated it can be part of the solution – helping to make higher education a reality for thousands of low-to moderate-income students who may have believed a degree was out of reach. We thank U.S. Reps. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Susie Lee (D-Nev.), as well as our other program supporters in Congress, for their bipartisan efforts to bring this innovative model to a national scale through the Earn to Learn Act.”

“The Nevada System of Higher Education supports the Earn to Learn Act to make available more financial resources for students for whom the cost of attending college may be out of reach,” said Chancellor Melody Rose, Ph.D., Nevada System of Higher Education. “This matching program, which is unique in its emphasis on financial literacy, has been shown to increase student retention rates and reduce the debt of students when they graduate. In representing Nevada’s public colleges and universities, we believe that we should be supporting innovative programs such as this to unlock educational opportunities for the most underserved students.”

“The bipartisan Earn to Learn Act is an important step forward in making higher education more affordable for college students and their families,” said Brian Sandoval, president of the University of Nevada, Reno. “The creation of educational savings accounts that allow qualifying students to save and pay for higher education will ensure that these students can realize a more debt-free future once they have graduated and are ready to launch the well-paying and productive careers that our country needs as we emerge from the pandemic. I wish to thank Nevada Rep. Susie Lee and Arizona Rep. David Schweikert for the collaborative leadership they have demonstrated with the creation of this important act.”

“Nevada State College commends Congresswoman Susie Lee for her leadership in introducing the Earn to Learn Act,” said Nevada State College President Bart Patterson. “This bipartisan legislation will increase access to higher education for students of color, first-generation, and low-income populations which disproportionally bear the burden of student loan debt. The Earn to Learn Act provides a valuable resource for our diverse and deserving student population and will help foster workforce development in southern Nevada."

“The Public Education Foundation (PEF) is proud to support the bipartisan Earn to Learn Act sponsored by Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) and Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ),” said Rich Broome, CEO of the Public Education Foundation. “As one of the largest scholarship providers in Nevada, PEF can attest to the growing need for financial assistance for post-secondary education among the students we serve, especially as families navigate the financial turmoil caused by the pandemic.”

“We appreciate the bipartisan efforts by Congresswoman Lee to assist Nevada students pursuing higher degrees with a matched-savings scholarship program,” said Mary Beth Sewald, President and CEO of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce. “This bill will ease the financial burdens on students and help develop the qualified workforce that employers need.”

“College access and community-based organization Leaders in Training (LIT) proudly supports the Earn to Learn legislation,” said Erica Mosca, Founder & Executive Director of Leaders in Training. “Nevada ranks nearly the bottom in college persistence rates and we know financial burdens are the number reasons that keep students from low-income communities from accessing or graduating from higher education. The Earn to Learn program will ensure all students, regardless of their backgrounds, have an equitable playing field to pursue the higher education path of their choice. LIT strongly supports this bill.”

 

BACKGROUND:

This legislation is modeled off of Arizona’s successful Earn to Learn program, which has a nearly decade-long track record helping underserved and underrepresented students access and complete a college education. Earn to Learn scholars have a first-year retention rate that approaches 90%, and the majority graduate with little or no student loan debt.

Under Earn to Learn, after qualifying students first deposit $500 into this educational savings account, each additional dollar contributed is matched by eight dollars through combined university support and other public and philanthropic funding.

 

How Nevada stacks up when it comes to student loan debt:

  • Over 324,000 Nevadans owe roughly $10.7 billion in federal student loan debt.
  • Nevada leads the nation with a default rate of 18.16%.
  • In a survey conducted by Student Debt Crisis, the nation’s largest student debt advocacy organization, 63% of Nevadan respondents said that they’ve either defaulted on a student loan or have not been able to make monthly loan payments since the pandemic started.

 

The following organizations have endorsed the Earn to Learn Act:

Nevada Endorsements:

  • Nevada System of Higher Education
  • Public Education Foundation (PEF)
  • Andre Agassi Foundation for Education
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV)
  • University of Nevada, Reno (UNR)
  • College of Southern Nevada (CSN)
  • Nevada State College (NSC)
  • Nevada State Treasurer Zach Conine
  • Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce
  • The Kenny Guinn Center for Policy Priorities
  • Leaders in Training (LIT)

Additional Endorsements:

  • Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry
  • Charles Schwab Foundation
  • Freeport McMoRan Foundation
  • Roche Diagnostics Solutions
  • Western Alliance Bank
  • Arizona Manufacturers Council
  • Greater Phoenix Chamber
  • Greater Phoenix Leadership
  • Southern Arizona Leadership Council
  • Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce
  • Arizona Community Foundation
  • Arizona Public Service (APS)
  • Tucson Electric Power and UniSource Energy Services
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