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1st Financial FCU Helps 2,800 STL Students Save for College

1st Financial Federal Credit Union announces a partnership with the City of St. Louis Treasury Office to create 2,800 accounts for their College Kids Savings Account Program, which will be used to support college savings efforts for every kindergartner in the City of St. Louis.

The City of St. Louis has one of the largest underbanked populations in the nation. An estimated 14% of St. Louis City families have no accounts at traditional financial institution while the national average is 9.7%. Since they lack access to a banking account, these residents are more likely to fall prey to payday lenders and high-fee, check-cashing businesses. 

Once an individual starts using these services instead of traditional financial institutions, it is often very difficult to get out from under the loan due to uncapped fees and hidden penalties. The best way to ensure children are protected from living loan to loan is by guaranteeing that they are financially literate and have a chance to get a college education. Unfortunately, many of the families who live in the City of St. Louis are not ready to assume the financial burden of saving for college and past mistakes leave them unable to open an account at a traditional financial institution.

The City of St. Louis Treasurer’s Office has developed an innovative program to help kick start the saving process and ease the burden for families. The College Kids Children’s Savings Account Program encourages college savings and promotes financial literacy for the city’s schoolchildren and families through children’s savings accounts, financial education, incentives, and dollar-for-dollar matches. 1st Financial was chosen by the City of St. Louis Treasurer’s Office to open more than 2,800 accounts and provide ongoing financial support to help the students save for their college education. Additionally, 1st Financial will offer support for participant’s families in order to further serve the St. Louis area. The Treasurer’s Office kick started the program on December 1 with a $175,000 deposit.

“My office has made a commitment to invest in the future by providing college savings accounts for EVERY kindergartner in a public school throughout the City of St. Louis,” says Treasurer Tishaura O. Jones. “Our partnership with 1st Financial allows parents and family members to make deposits into the savings accounts at any shared branch location. Together, we are eliminating barriers to college access one savings account at a time!”

Having a college savings account, regardless of the balance, can be enough motivation to pursue a college education. Even children with low balances as low as $1 in a dedicated savings account are 2.5 times more likely to enroll in and graduate from college than students with no previous savings.  The initial $50 seed deposit used to open the accounts is provided by the City of St. Louis Treasurer’s Office, coming from parking fees collected by the City of St. Louis. Students can then earn additional incentives including:

  • Weekly Perfect Attendance: Students can earn $1/week during the school year for attending school and arriving on time for each day of school that is in session that week.
  • Smart Saver: Deposits will receive a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $100 during the first year.
  • Financial Education: Parents and guardians are able to earn an additional $50 in contributions by completing financial education courses in-person, online through Wells Fargo Hands on Banking® and through the College Kids smartphone app.

1st Financial will offer support for participant’s families in order to further serve the St. Louis area. The secondary goal of the program is to reduce the unbanked population of St. Louis by teaching the children and their families about the responsible use of money and how to avoid getting trapped in the cycle of payday loan businesses. The College Kids Program will ensure access to healthy banking services for underbanked and unbanked citizens, while developing a culture of savings and asset building.

Caption: Pictured are (from left) Carol Minges, 1st Financial Federal Credit Union CEO; Tracy Verner, 1st Financial Federal Credit Union Community Development Manager; Laura Woods, 1st Financial Federal Credit Union VP of Marketing and Community Presence; and Tishaura Jones, City of St. Louis Treasurer.