Students at Georgetown University have secured a federal charter to operate what federal officials say is the nation's first private university credit union designed to be managed entirely by students.
National Credit Union Administration board member Elizabeth Burkart recently presented the charter to Kyle Stevenson, president of the Georgetown University Student Federal Credit Union board of directors, in a ceremony at the Treasury Department.
"It's a good idea," Stevenson said, "for both the students who are going to be served and the people who are doing the serving."
The advantages of a credit union run by students to meet student needs should outweigh any technical problems the organization will meet, he said.
Georgetown becomes the first private school to join the University of Massachusetts, University of Connecticut, University of Maine and Eastern Montana College--all public schools-- in student-operated credit unions.
In a move to strengthen the financial base of such student credit groups, the NCUA also has said it would approve a proposal to allow student federal credit unions to accept insured deposits from nonmembers such as corporations and businesses, pending a 30-day review.
Normally, credit unions can accept insured deposits only from members. However, federal credit unions that serve predominantly low-income members are legally allowed to accept insured deposits from nonmembers. The NCUA proposal would place student federal credit unions into that low-income category.
"Credit unions with strong outside support will really benefit from securing insured outside accounts," said Harry Blaisdell, director of the NCUA department of administration.
The NCUA currently defines "low-income" members as those "whose annual income falls at or below the lower level standard of living classification as established by the Bureau of Labor Statisics ($16,702 for a family of four in the Washington metropolitan area); those members who are residents of a public housing project who qualify for such residency because of low income and members who qualify as recipients in a community action program."
The granting of low-income status to student federal credit unions is designed to increase the availability of loan money for books, fees, emergencies and possibly tuition. The action comes on the heels of a 22 percent decrease in 1982 in the funds available from the nation's largest student aid supply, the Guaranteed Student Loan program.
The amount of money available from the GSL program in 1982 was $6.1 billion, down from $7.8 billion in 1981, according to the Department of Education. The department estimates funds for 1983 will be $6.6 billion, rising to $7.2 billion in 1984, pending a revision in eligibility rules. The GSL program grew from $1.3 billion in 1975 to $4.8 billion in 1980.
Georgetown University is the first nonmember to pledge to deposit funds in the GUFSCU under the pending nonmember deposit rule. The university has said it will deposit $100,000 in the newly formed credit union for an undetermined length of time and interest rate, said Stevenson, who is a junior in the foreign service college.
Stevenson said that, based on a campus survey taken last year, the GUFSCU is expecting approximately $500,000 in deposits from 1,200 of the university's 8,000 students. The credit union will be open to all Georgetown students and alumni.
The GUSFCU plans to start offering share (savings) accounts before moving into loans and share draft (checking) accounts, Stevenson said. Loans in the early stages of the credit union will be for small amounts for items such as books, supplies and emergencies, he said.
Initially, Stevenson said the GUSFCU loan interest rates will vary from 10 percent for a secured loan to 14 percent for an unsecured loan.
GUSFCU student officials hope to strike a deal with Riggs National Bank whereby the bank would donate office supplies to the group in return for the credit union's deposits, according to Stevenson.
"They Riggs think it is a very good idea to help students to learn about management and finance," said Stevenson. "We are helping them in a way. All the money that is deposited into us will be going right back into them."
Robert Hileman, senior vice president of Riggs' metropolitan division, said the bank has made no definite commitment to donate office supplies to the group. Hileman also said the bank had no agreement with the GUFSCU on deposit of funds, although the prospects have been discussed.
Plans for the GUFSCU emerged last spring when student Alyce Russ and Stevenson joined forces to submit a credit union proposal to the student government, the school administration and the NCUA.
Russ--who is now the credit union's treasurer and who worked previously at the University of Connecticut student credit union--said the next step for the Georgetown organization will be to perfect its daily routines and prepare a marketing plan.
"From March to mid-August we will work on 30 to 50 accounts to get everything in order," Russ said. "We will concentrate highly on the marketing end to get the new freshmen coming in and at the same time the returning upper classmen."
Two major problems will confront GUFSCU when it opens it doors officially in August, Russ said. First, the GUFSCU must be able to accommodate a high number of student transactions by holding highly liquid reserves, which decrease the return on reserves. Second, the amount of money in accounts will vary widely from the beginning and ending of semesters and summer vacation.
Russ said voluntary labor, which has been in ample supply, will reduce the high transaction costs. To meet the drain in funds expected over the summer, Russ said the GUFSCU will offer short term three-month certificates of deposits. Finally, to stablize the fluctuating balances of students, the GUFSCU hopes to attract more nonmember balances such as the Georgetown University deposit.
Stevenson said becoming involved in a financial operation has provided a feel for business organization that could not have come from attending classes and reading a textbook.
"The biggest obstacle has just been the amount of time and not knowing how to do it," Stevenson said. "We have learned so much from doing this ourselves. Managing money and working with finance is an incredible experience and the kind you can't get out of a book."
Pausing for a moment, Stevenson added, "I don't know if I can call that an obstacle. You're always learning."