ST. LOUIS (12/9/15)--In St. Louis, finding a parking ticket tucked under your car’s windshield wiper just became a welcome sight.
That’s because of the commitment made by 1st Financial FCU, Wentzville, Mo., to partner with the St. Louis Treasurer’s Office to ensure students in the city’s public schools have a head start on a college education.
Last year, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones decided to recreate a program she had heard about in San Francisco that repackaged residual parking revenue into starter college savings accounts for students.
Jones put out a call to financial institutions to help her open the accounts in St. Louis, and 1st Financial stepped up to the challenge.
Despite the compliance obstacles the credit union had to overcome, 1st Financial made it work and created 2,800 $50 deposit-only college savings accounts with $175,000 Jones delivered to the credit union earlier this month.
The goal of the campaign, called the College Kids Children’s Savings Account program, is to start 3,500 accounts, one for each kindergartner in the city’s school system.
Laura Woods, 1st Financial vice president of marketing and community presence, told News Now that, instead of students being told that they will be lucky to go to college, they now learn that they stand squarely on the road to a college education.
“They’re reaching every kindergartner every year and saying, ‘Of course you’re going to college and we’re starting you on that path,’” Woods said. “Teachers are now putting up banners in their classrooms, they’re starting the conversation about college earlier.”
In addition to the initial $50, students can pad their savings accounts by having perfect attendance at school. One week of perfect attendance contributes $1 to their savings accounts.
Furthermore, friends and family can contribute to the accounts, with the incentive that every dollar donated will receive a dollar-for-dollar match up to $100 per month during the first year. Students and their parents or guardians also can add $50 to the student accounts for completing financial education courses, which the credit union calls scholarships (The St. Louis American Dec. 3).
To fulfill this need, Woods said the credit union offers quarterly financial literacy “boot camps,” which cover subjects such as building a budget, financing vehicle purchases and building credit.
“Of course, we want to do things for the membership as a whole, but we also want to do things for the community,” Woods said. “It’s hard work, but it’s good hard work.”