A group of Columbia students is looking to bring a new form of community banking to campus.
The Lion Credit Union Initiative has assembled a team to bolster the group’s outreach and expansion efforts in hopes of securing recognition from the National Credit Union Administration and making their project official. LCUI is circulating a survey among students in the hopes of proving to NCUA that Columbia has a large enough need for the credit union.
By its very nature, LCUI is a not-for-profit banking cooperative run as a collective and not by executives.
“It’s created by a community for that community,” LCUI executive board member Jared Greene, CC ’16, said. “All the profit, rather than going back to some CEO, is going right towards the members. This also creates a culture where your goal is not profit, but it’s member utility, which is cool.”
Greene, Sunpreet Singh, CC ’16 and a Spectator product development associate, Mischa Beumer, GS ’14, and Caitlin de Lisser-Ellen, CC ’16, comprise the LCUI’s executive board.
Greene said members in the credit union would be considered shareholders, meaning that each person would have a say in how the organization is run.
The LCUI has the potential to offer its members a number of products similar to those of other banks, including low interest rates on loans and accounts.
De Lisser-Ellen said, “It’s not a service we currently see being offered on campus, and it’s something we have seen at other colleges where credit unions are offered. It’s something very tailored to students that we think could be a great possibility if there were to be a credit union on campus.”
Board members said that LCUI is also aiming to be a proponent of financial literacy on campus.
The board agreed that they would be interested in inviting speakers to campus to discuss, among other things, what a credit score is and what it means to have a student loan.
“This is stuff no matter if you’re an investment banker or art curator, you need to know how to balance your checking book and how to fill out your taxes,” Greene said.
“And so we would be here to not just be someone that gives responsible checking and savings accounts, not just someone that actually educates our internal members on how to run a bank, but also how to bank in general,” Greene added.
Georgetown University and the University of Pennsylvania have established student-run credit unions after which LCUI is planning to model its program. Unlike the ones at Georgetown and Penn, which are student- and alumni-only, LCUI hopes to open up the credit union to Columbia employees, faculty, and students.
“We’re here to be a Columbia University credit union,” Greene said. “We want to serve the Columbia University community barring any complications.”
“It also serves as a real-world way of building a bond between you and your community,” Beumer said. “If alumni are still banking with Columbia 20 years from now, they’re going to be connected to our university and our undergraduates in ways that are impossible right now and really lead to exciting dimensions.”
LCUI has been working closely with the other university credit unions and with a transfer student from Georgetown who is now working with LCUI as an analyst.
Phantila Phataraprasit, CC ’16, was an operations manager at the Georgetown University Alumni & Student Federal Credit Union in her last semester at the school. GUASFCU is the largest student-run credit union in the U.S.
Phataraprasit said that working for the Georgetown credit union was a valuable experience to have during her first year.
“Especially since students were running and starting it, it became a Georgetown tradition to bank at GUASFCU,” she said. “It can become a part of the community here in a sense. I think a lot of students would be interested not only banking with a credit union, but also joining it and being part of working in it.”
The executive board added that the Federal Credit Union would conduct regular audits of LCUI.
LCUI members said that their next course of action is advertising the benefits to the community.
“It would educate the public, it would educate the people that are actual volunteers at the credit union,” Greene said. “It would give money back to our clubs and it would just give you better rates. One of our biggest issues is telling people what a credit union is.”
LCUI held an information session earlier this semester that had a turnout of approximately 45 students.
Beumer said that the information session allowed him to speak with students from all different grades. Tracy Stephens, BC ’16, who attended the information session, said that she is interesting in joining the LCUI.
“Being accepted for credit cards and loans is tough if you’re a student, just because you haven’t established yourself financially,” she said. “Having a credit union affiliated with Columbia would solve a lot of these problems.”