Open a Credit Union Branch in School to Boost Financial Literacy
By Right About Money Staff Report
March 7, 2017
Don’t be surprised if little Sally comes home tonight and asks, “What’s a credit union?” Across the country, credit unions are setting up shop in schools as part of an outreach program to help kids learn about money.
The cooperative structure of a credit union makes it a “natural fit for students looking to learn how to build strong savings and responsibly manage checking accounts, debit cards and eventually loans,” Ken Worthey, financial literacy and outreach analyst at the National Credit Union Administration, told Nerdwallet.
Credit unions started including financial education in their communities 30 years ago. Local banks have taken up the torch in their own ways. But credit unions typically are much smaller; they are non-profits with greater flexibility about where and how they operate. As the need for financial education has become more apparent, hundreds of credit unions have mobilized to open branches and bring financial literacy lessons to kids in school.
In Pennsylvania, more than 50 high schools now house credit union branches. These are usually situated in cafeterias, gyms and lobbies—wherever students congregate. They often look like small stores and usually are staffed by a single credit union employee with help from student workers who learn functions likes how to open checking and savings accounts, and check credit reports.
Visions Federal Credit Union opened a school branch at Reading High School in Pennsylvania. The school branch, near the cafeteria, is open three days a week during lunch. “Students open accounts, cash and deposit checks, make withdrawals and various other deposits and transfers—any transaction you’d normally do at a branch,” Timothy Strong, the credit union’s business development manager, told Lehigh Valley Business.
Credit unions are reaching out in other ways too. They send representatives into classrooms to lead seminars on banking and budgeting. Sometimes teachers are invited to bring their classes to a local credit union to see it in operation.
The in-school branch model works for a lot of reasons. It offers easy, and often early hands-on exposure to the banking world. For the students who help at the school branch, it also offers genuine resume-building experience.