EAST LANSING, Mich.—Michigan State University FCU is participating in a program developed by Michigan State University to assist migrant students going through financial hardship as they pursue higher education.

MSUFCU is working in conjunction with the MSU College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and the Telamon Farmworker Individual Development Account (IDA) program to provide 25 eligible students with the chance to participate in a match savings program. Eligible students who meet a $500 savings goal can utilize $4,000 in federal and non-federal funds, and MSUFCU will assist students by opening and maintaining their savings accounts, providing financial literacy training and donating $2,000 in non-federal match funds per student. Savings earned during the year-long program can be used for post-secondary education and related educational expenses.

MSUFCU's partnership with CAMP dates back a few years, though the two have previously focused their efforts on financial education. Sarah Bohan, MSUFCU's former VP of corporate relations, said representatives from CAMP and Telamon approached the credit union with the idea to form a partnership that would create IDA accounts for MSU CAMP students with great financial need, including some who live below the poverty line.

"We felt that this was a program that would really benefit the students of this area, but also help MSU students reduce some of their financial debt loan when they're coming out of college, especially for those that are in great financial need," she said.

Telamon and CAMP use their own criteria to determine which students are selected, and are looking for the students who will benefit most but also be the most engaged.

"They're looking at helping students that are in their junior and senior years, because there are more studies showing that students might receive financial assistance for their freshman and sophomore years, but struggle to gain assistance for their junior and senior years and may not persist through college because of that," said Bohan.

While MSUFCU has never done a program quite like this, said Bohan, it has participated in similar partnerships, such as working with the Michigan Youth Opportunity Initiative to help foster kids gain independence and learn financial education through IDA accounts.

There isn't anything in place to ensure that these members become more deeply involved and profitable members over time, but Bohan noted that the program helps deepen the relationship between the CU and CAMP.

"It's more than just the six students going through the MSU CAMP program, so it helps deepen that partnership, and we gain membership through that," she explained. "It helps us to share their stories and build the relationship with the students so that hopefully it does become a lifetime membership." The goal, she added, is that these students ultimately come to see the CU as a resource they can use throughout their lives, and not just as the place where they keep their money.

The credit union will run financial education curriculum for participants for six to 12 months, with assessments taking place throughout in order for MSUFCU to track the program's success. Telamon will also do its own tracking.

Bohan didn't have specific expectations for where the program would be by the end of 2015, and confessed that, as with many new programs, year one is often a testing phase.

"We expect it to be a successful year in that, through the selectin process we have engaged students who would provide us with feedback on how we can monitor and alter it for years following," she said. By tracking the financial education component, she said, the CU can better see engagement and retention levels.

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