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Credit Unions Paying Its Forward with Scholarship Opportunities

Credit Unions Paying Its Forward with Scholarship Opportunities

Are you a high school senior or college student looking for a reliable way to finance some of your higher educational expenses? Look no further than your friendly, neighborhood credit union. Credit unions aim to improve their members’ lives by fostering financial freedom and stability, and supporting the pursuit of higher education is one way they do so.

In the spirit of the credit union movement, which was built upon a dedication to education, many credit unions offer academic and need-based scholarships, often as part of a larger suite of student resources, to help young members finance education beyond high school.

Giving to Many and Shaping the Future

The typical credit union-funded scholarships have been evolving in recent years with some credit unions now offering aid to many types of students, for different reasons, and for various fields of study.

For example, Truliant Credit Union (Winston-Salem, NC) offers 4 scholarships, for grade 12 through Graduate School, with funds from the Carolinas’ Foundation. According to Marjorie Rorie, Director of Community Services, these include:

Applicants will be evaluated by the Selection Committees based on the following   criteria:

Rorie explains that with nearly 200 members applying each year, winners are selected in two phases. First the Truliant selection committee at the credit union’s corporate headquarters selects the top 30 applicants and then the Carolinas Foundation makes the final selections from this group.

“We feel that a college education is one of the best investments a person can make, and we are dedicated to helping our members with that investment,” said Rorie.

At Community Choice Credit Union (Farmington Hills, MI), in the past twenty years, recipients have each received $5,000 scholarships. This year, however, $100,000 in awards will be divided up for a multitude of winners based on qualifying scores and essays.

According to Paula Piccinini, Marketing Communications & Public Relations Manager, in addition to other requirements, any high school senior that lives, works or worships in the credit union’s field of membership and has been accepted to an accredited Michigan college or university may apply. “This is the credit union’s fifth year and will mark a half million dollars in scholarships given away!”

Likewise, Veridian Credit Union (Waterloo, IA) has two scholarship programs. The first is open to any student enrolled in a vocational, trade, or accredited 2-year or 4-year college. The second is their ArtShare Scholarship for incoming freshman who are pursuing a degree in the arts. According to Angie Weekley, Community Inclusion Manager, ArtShare is a partnership Veridian has forged with local high school art departments to celebrate the talent of local artists in the communities and encourage students to pursue careers in the arts.

ArtShare scholarship entrants are required to submit two essays. The first essay is a personal essay on who has inspired them to become an artist and the second asks the artist to write about their perceived future in the arts.

“Offering academic scholarships encourages students to pursue higher education and fits within the credit union philosophy of ‘people helping people,’” said Weekley.

Pawtucket Credit Union (Pawtucket, RI) is yet another credit union offering multiple opportunities for educational assistance. These include the Investing in Your Future Scholarship (IYF) for members (an $8,000 award) as well as one to employees’ children (a $1,000 award).

“We have a one page application, an essay, and a membership requirement for the IYF Scholarship, and a one page application for the Employee Scholarship -- both scholarships require proof that the student has been accepted to a college/university or technical school,” explained Kristin Rojas, AVP/Financial Literacy & Community Outreach.

Rojas said that Pawtucket’s scholarship fits with their overall philosophy of inclusiveness and education. “We feel that there are a number of scholarships for the very bright students and for those who are considered low income -- our scholarship allows those students who may fall in the middle of these categories to have a chance as well.”

Pawtucket’s IYF Scholarship also allows the credit union to support two of their focus areas of education and financial literacy. “Giving students the opportunity to further their education and start them on the path to success is an investment that PCU is proud to make,” contended Rojas

Supporting Individuals, Improving Communities

Credit unions recognize that by helping students attain higher education, they are ultimately helping to improve the communities in which they serve.

 “At Truliant, our mission is to improve the quality of lives of our members and to become their preferred financial institution,” said Rorie. “By supporting education for our members, we provide a path for them to make their lives and the world around them a better place to live and we are proud of our contribution to this goal.”

“We Pay It Forward to our communities,” said Piccinini. Community Choice’s scholarships are just one part of a larger charitable effort by the credit union, called “Give Big.” The credit union concluded 2012 by providing over $135,000 to community programs, while team members contributed over 2,443 volunteer hours to local communities.

“Five years ago, CCCU launched the Community Choice Foundation -- at the time, we were looking for a solution to help stop the brain drain in Michigan," said Robert Bava, President and CEO of Community Choice Credit Union. "Since 2008, we have helped encourage the best and brightest to stay in Michigan and to utilize their education to give big to our communities."

Making Members’ Dreams a Reality

Telhio Credit Union (Columbus, OH) has been offering one $1,000 and two $500 scholarships to students enrolled in a two- or four-year college or trade school, for over 20 years. Applicants must complete an application and an essay, and be a Telhio member or son/daughter of a member in good standing for at least six months.

Karen Daniels, Senior Vice President of Member Services, said that providing the opportunity for the young people of today to achieve their academic goals underscores the credit union’s philosophy of helping members make a better tomorrow for themselves. “We work hard every day to help our members make their dreams reality, and for many, college is an important step in seeing those dreams come true.”

“We feel honored to be able to reward hard-working, deserving students by assisting them with financing their college or trade school education; this is just one way we can give something back to our members, who everyday give us their trust and support,” added Daniels.

If you’re a young person preparing for college, a seasoned college student, or the parent of a student, check out your credit union for scholarship offers – don’t delay because many deadlines are quickly approaching. Or, find a credit union today and gain a helpful partner whose focus is your financial independence and future success. Best of luck in your scholarship search and in the pursuit of your dreams!

By Cyndi Cohen
Published February 5, 2013
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