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Minn. CUs Share Insight In Establishing In-school Branches
ST. PAUL, Minn. (6/24/13)--With student-run credit unions a hot topic in Minnesota, three credit unions in the state have received media coverage and high praise for their new in-school branches, said the Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN).

Click to view larger image Postal CU employee Marc Buchmayer shared his experiences working at the new student-run credit union at Tartan High School in Minnesota. (Photo provided by the Minnesota Credit Union Network)
Student branches of HomeTown CU in Owatonna, St. Paul (Minn.) FCU and Postal CU in Woodbury have opened their doors in the past three years.

MnCUN and the Minnesota Credit Union Foundation hosted an educational session Wednesday for credit unions to share experiences of establishing student-run branches.

MnCUN Vice President-Association Services Kristina Wright, who is the lead staff liaison to the foundation, discussed the benefits of student-run credit unions and various models, saying that personal finance aspects of in-school branches are "just the tip of the iceberg."

"Not only do students receive financial education, but they get experience in life skills, like applying and interviewing for jobs, and learning the finer points of customer service," Wright said. She noted that schools can incorporate the student branches into marketing, math, art and computer classes.

"Student branches also open the doors for credit unions to be more involved in the community, educate students on the credit union difference, and increase your positive reputation among students, faculty and parents," Wright added. "This kind of involvement in the school positions your credit union as a valuable community partner and creates goodwill on a number of different levels," she told the group.

Richard Todd, vice president, community affairs with the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, provided an overview of the history and revival of in-school savings programs, which started in Europe in the mid-1800s and spread to the U.S. in the 1870s. Todd noted changes in these programs over the years and the need for good support from financial institutions.

Representatives from HomeTown CU, St. Paul FCU and Postal CU shared their experiences, including hurdles and lessons learned. Each stressed the importance of forming a strong relationship with a school or district, and identifying a financial education champion within the school to help drive ideas forward.

While all the speakers agreed on a few key tenets--choosing a good location, being flexible and engaging with the school in as many ways as possible--each student-run branch is unique in its structure, offerings and demographics, they said.

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