MADISON, Wis. (8/6/13)--In a recent initiative to grade all 50 states on their efforts to teach the ABCs of financial literacy to high school students, 21 states earned D and F grades from the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College. However, some credit unions are trying to fight these dismal results.
For instance, three credit unions in Minnesota are using student branches to increase financial literacy levels among their high school age students within their communities. HomeTown CU in Owatonna, St. Paul (Minn.) FCU and Postal CU in Woodbury have opened student branches in the past three years.
HomeTown CU opened the first student-run branch in the fall of 2011 after working for five years with teachers, the school board and school administrators of Owatonna High School.
The credit union had established a previous presence at the high school--and a rapport with the school's business department by providing financial literacy presentations. "The student branch really brings us to the forefront," said Kim Westphal, Hometown CU president/CEO. "Being there every day, being able to promote financial literacy among the students, and talking to them about how important it is to establish savings, makes such a difference. In the long run that benefits the credit union to have financially literate youth and adults in the community."
The Hometown CU student branch is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every school day over the lunch hour. Two students operate the branch every day. The students are also credit union employees.
St. Paul FCU opened its student branch at Como Park Senior High School in St. Paul in October 2012. The credit union also plans to open additional student-run branch at another high school in the near future, St. Paul FCU President/CEO Theresa Malone told News Now.
The decision to open a student branch was a reflection of the St. Paul FCU's board of directors' commitment to financial literacy and the credit unions commitment to the people helping people philosophy, Malone said.
"We all benefit: The school, the students, the community, the credit union and the credit union movement as a whole," Malone said. Society benefits from having financially educated youth who have the opportunity to make better financial decisions as they grow into adults. It is a win-win for all."
The student branch is open from 10:00 am to 12:30 p.m. each school day. St. Paul CU also participates in shared branching so the student branch can also assist with transactions from other credit unions. The branch also includes an ATM.
In its first year school year, the student branch opened 33 accounts. Malone expects to double that total this year. "At first, a lot of it was about educating the students about who we are," she said. "That's another benefit of student run branches: Educating people about credit unions."
Postal CU opened its student branch in Tartan High School in January.
The credit union had a long-term relationship with the high school through marketing and on-the-job training programs.
Community involvement is among the credit union's goals and financial literacy was a community identified by the credit union.
"This is not going to drive a hard return on investment," Brian Sherrick, Postal CU president/CEO, told News Now. "It's a long-term commitment to our community.
The student branch fulfills two of the seven core cooperative principles and values: education and concern for the community, Sherrick noted.
"It's really a big part of what makes us a credit union," he said.
The student credit union is open ten hours a week. The three students who work in the student branch also work at Postal CU's brick-and-mortar braches. The students started working at the credit union in May 2012 to gain a full understanding of Postal CU's products, services and operations before the student branch opened.
Alisha Johnson, Postal CU senior vice president of marketing sales and service, believes that among the chief benefits of the branches is the opportunity for high school students to learn about financial literacy from their peers.
"It's one thing for an adult to tell you the benefits of saving money, but when it comes from someone you from soccer or the National Honor Society, the message is so much more believable," Johnson said. "It makes their decisions much more conscious, and that's what we're trying to do."
This article is part of a News Now series of exclusive, special reports on credit unions' outreach efforts and innovative ideas. Fostering service excellence and raising awareness about the value credit unions provide their members and communities are two prongs in credit unions' Unite For Good campaign toward a vision in which Americans choose credit unions as their best financial provider.