Every new year brings new opportunities to create healthier lifestyle habits, establish goals and objectives for the coming year, and in some ways start life over. Unfortunately, most new year’s resolutions focus on physical health, rather than fiscal health. That’s an oversight few credit union members – or anyone, for that matter – can afford on their journey to long-term financial well-being.
Now is an excellent time for credit unions to help their Hispanic members improve their financial practices, foster wise money spending decisions and more effectively manage their own financial futures.
The first step is to help Hispanic members identify their financial goals for the new year. Here are a few questions credit unions can ask their members to help them chart the right course.
Is there anything you would like to stop or start doing financially? It is a simple yet powerful question that could make a member ponder. It is worth asking.
Asking these and other questions can be important in helping members set the course for a brighter financial future, one that might even give them the opportunity to take that long awaited vacation they have always wanted or make a larger purchase of something they need. It is difficult for credit unions or their members to understand or know how to reach their financial goals until those questions are answered.Leave a comment
This past year Coopera has had the opportunity to help multiple credit unions better serve their Hispanic constituents. We learned a lot in 2018, and we’re happy to see that both the credit unions and their Hispanic members benefited from our joint efforts.
Several critical trends emerged from among those 2018 successes. Here are three we believe have widespread application to credit unions across the nation.
1. Staff training opportunities have enabled more credit unions to share Hispanic market service and growth insights with employees at all levels.
Helping credit union staff – both new and experienced – understand the cultural nuances of serving all member segments has become an important growth strategy. In best-practice credit unions, cultural awareness training is no less important than financial and technological training, and it’s something we hope more credit unions embrace in the future.
Coopera is able to measure and score a credit union’s cultural sensitivity, enabling it to better communicate with Hispanic members. From that score, the credit union can adjust its operational thinking and practices so more Hispanic members feel understood and appreciated by the institution. Increased understanding, in turn, results in more and better service to those members, eventually leading to greater product engagement by Hispanic members in those credit unions.
2. Increased ITIN lending by credit unions both new to and experienced with such loans has resulted in larger loan portfolios and better member service.
Loans made using Individual Tax Identifications Numbers (ITINs) rather than Social Security numbers to verify identity are still new to many credit unions. But credit unions that understand the nuances of using this form of legal ID have discovered new and often untapped sources of loan demand and revenue. From payday loan alternatives to credit-builder loans to auto loans and even mortgages, the demand and opportunities for ITIN loans are helping both borrowers and lenders thrive.
Produced with the help of partner organizations, Coopera offers access to an ITIN lending guide that provides both recommendations and resources for such a program’s application and use. Access the guide free of charge here: https://filene.org/do-something/programs/non-citizen-lending.
While a program like ITIN lending is an opportunity to engage Hispanic members, credit unions offering only the foundation of such financial access without building a framework for its Hispanic members’ financial growth run the risk of losing those members to the competition. Coopera offers credit unions assistance in creating holistic solutions to help Hispanic members financially grow with the institution.
3. State credit union leagues are using Coopera’s solutions so that their member institutions increase membership to include Hispanics.
Leagues nationwide recognize their duty in providing tools for member credit unions grow, and more of them are finding greater growth by attracting Hispanic members by clearly showing the philosophical imperative and business case for it. As one of the fastest growing demographic groups in the U.S., Hispanics present significant opportunities for credit unions nationwide.
One of Coopera’s partner leagues, for example, has a goal of helping its credit unions reach 1 million members within the state. To assist them with this goal, Coopera provides “opportunity maps” identifying Hispanic groups for the league’s credit unions, enabling them to target, attract and serve members about whom they otherwise might not have known. We’re doing the same thing with other leagues as well, and look forward to future partnerships on projects such as this.
The initiatives outlined above illustrate how Coopera has actively helped the credit union movement reach out and better serve Hispanics throughout this past year. Coopera will continue these initiatives and actively exploring how to integrate more solutions and insights to reach underserved in the years to come.
We look forward to having you with us on the journey in the New Year!Leave a comment
Continuing our get-to-know series, this blog post features Yaneth Torres, client support specialist for Coopera.
My parents came to the U.S. from El Salvador and I was born in Los Angeles. Shortly after that, we moved to Perry, Iowa, where I grew up. I attended Grand View University, where I enjoyed being involved in multicultural events and clubs on campus.
After graduating, I was working as an administrative assistant at El Mariachi Restaurant, one of three restaurants owned by my uncle on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. I discovered this position on LinkedIn and learned more about it by talking with Kenia Calderon, the sister of one of my Grand View classmates, who also happened to be Coopera’s Client Relations Director. Despite Hawaii’s beauty, I jumped at the chance to return home and take a job serving fellow Hispanics.
How does your past experience reflect Coopera’s mission?
I always liked being involved in the Hispanic community. At Grand View I was part of the Multicultural Student Ambassadors Leadership program and the Diversity Alliance Club. I also mentored Hispanic students at Des Moines’ East High School. I believe my passion for serving Hispanics aligns well with credit unions’ service profile and Coopera’s mission.
What will you do as Coopera’s Client Support Specialist?
My position supports the delivery and fulfillment of Coopera’s products and services. This includes assessments and analytics reports, consulting, training, marketing services and translations. I’m part of the Client Relations team, and we all work closely together to coordinate client communications, support new-client onboarding processes and fulfill client requests.
What makes you a natural for this position?
I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a marketing emphasis. That background, along with my outgoing personality, will help me connect with and better serve Coopera’s clients.
Do you have a personal or business philosophy?
I always try to be on the lookout for opportunities to make a positive impact on whatever it is that I do. I manifest it daily by finding ways to help others, exceed expectations, and build positive relationships with those around me.
What would you like to see credit unions do to better serve Hispanic members?
It would be extremely helpful if more credit unions had diversified employee bases. Too often Hispanics don’t seek the type of services they really need due to language and cultural differences with an institution. Greater staff diversity would promote a freer exchange, which would result in better financial relationships for all involved.
What is the most interesting thing you’ve done that most people don’t know?
I once went shark-cage diving off of Oahu’s North Shore, Hawaii’s most famous surfing area. The boat took us three miles offshore and sunk a floating cage in the water that allowed four or five of us in the water at a time.
We were surrounded by sharks of all types and, even though we were well protected, I was freaking out. I finally decided I could do this, and it turned into a wonderful experience. I learned never to underestimate myself, and I had a feeling of tremendous accomplishment once it was all over.
Leave a comment
The most successful credit unions clearly understand the needs of the members they’re serving. In many cases, member analytics are at the heart of the strategies used to reach those members and meet those needs.
Analytics are especially important when it comes to serving Hispanics – either those who already are credit union members or those who have yet to become members. Understanding those markets through member data collected and interpreted by our team of experts at Coopera, helps credit unions effectively attract, recruit and ultimately, meet those members’ needs.
We’ve noted before that Hispanics comprise one of the fastest growing U.S. demographic segments, with one out of every six U.S. residents citing Hispanic origins. This group accounts for more than $1 trillion in buying power, and yet roughly half are unbanked or underserved. Hispanics present a prime opportunity for credit union service, one that will only grow over time.
Moreover, it’s one thing to bring Hispanics through your doors and another to involve them in your full menu of services. Analytics can tell a credit union key characteristics about their Hispanic members that can be used to determine the type of services they need and want the most. Ultimately, the credit union has the information to develop a strategy to successfully foster membership growth and product engagement from their Hispanic market.
Our team has developed tools that can sort Hispanic members into various groups, ranging from country of origin to socio-economic strata, that enable credit unions to better understand their members.
Our team of experts analyze the data using a variety of assessment tools. Our Hispanic Target Market Analysis looks at Hispanic populations within a credit union’s various branch areas, making service recommendations for primary and secondary Hispanic target markets based on numerous socio-economic indicators. We also utilize our Hispanic Member Analysis tool to measure the product and service usage of existing Hispanic credit union members, as well as their language preference.
Many credit unions begin their journey with our Hispanic Opportunity Navigator, which uses analytical data to create a literal roadmap for serving Hispanic populations. The data collected helps us create a suggested strategic development plan customized for each individual credit union.
These tools and the strategies reach beyond a credit union’s marketing initiative and helps executive teams establish success metrics that can help drive the institution’s future growth. Individualized guidance and the ability to approach the Hispanic market on a more holistic level is where our services differ from those of mere data collection firms.
Some credit unions still harbor concerns about the time, cost and effort it will take to serve what may be for them an unfamiliar market, many of whose members speak a different language. But with the right analytic tools this can be less of a challenge than they might think.
Serving Hispanics is something many credit unions have yet to understand, but it’s not something they will never understand. Because of the cultural and language differences, that service may require an augmented development strategy that operates a little differently than the institution’s mainstream strategic plan.
Fortunately, the return on investment for credit unions that have pursued the Hispanic market has been the most successful segment of the institution’s overall development plan. Using analytics is the best way to start that journey, or support a journey already underway to reach and serve this rapidly growing demographic.Leave a comment
A credit union’s income is largely driven by its loan portfolio, and there is a unique opportunity for even greater loan growth available to institutions willing to go the extra mile in serving immigrant populations.
Not everyone who works in the U.S. is considered a citizen, yet all are required to pay taxes on their earnings. Workers who don’t qualify for Social Security numbers must satisfy their debt to the IRS by registering for Individual Tax Identification Numbers, better known as ITINs.
More credit unions are starting to use ITINs to qualify borrowers for loans and other services, a move beneficial both to members and their institutions.
This is especially true for credit unions serving Hispanic and other underserved markets, but it should be noted that ITINs are not only for Hispanics and recent immigrants. Many workers from Canada, India and other countries pay their U.S. taxes through their ITIN accounts. Done correctly, loans using ITINs as proof of income can open a new world of borrowers for participating institutions.
This past month Coopera, in partnership with our sister company PolicyWorks, the Filene Research Institute and inclusiv (formerly the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions) released the Implementation Guide: Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) Lending. The 67-page publication, free to credit unions, offers a comprehensive, legally compliant approach to ITIN lending.
The guide consolidates best practices, tools and resources for credit unions wanting to reach this largely untapped market of immigrant workers who need the ability to more fully participate in the economic growth and development necessary to make their lives financially secure.
The guide evolved using testing results from the Filene Institute’s Reaching Minority Households Incubator, which measures products and service strategies for reaching financially underserved consumers. Coopera was a major collaborator in both the research study and implementation guide creation.
This guide couldn’t have come at a better time. There is a very strong business case for providing personal and automobile loans to what is an often-overlooked population segment. As with other financial products provided to the Hispanic community, the word is likely to spread among its members, resulting in an increase in member applications along with the resulting loan growth.
There also is an equally strong philosophical platform for ITIN lending. Providing members of this group greater financial stability and more active participation in the U.S. economy serves not only their needs but helps create a level of increased financial security that serves to further strengthen their community and society at large.
Credit unions are committed to serving the underserved, and this may well be the most underserved community of all.
Please feel free to contact any of us at Coopera for more information on ITIN lending and a copy of the guide. We are here to help.Leave a comment
When I accepted the position of CEO of Coopera earlier this month, my team gave me a framed quote that, in terms of the organization’s mission and my own personal career trajectory, couldn’t have been more profound.
The quote reads, “Hispanics need credit unions as much as credit unions need Hispanics.” It is attributed to Warren Morrow, the founder of Coopera.
To say that I was as moved by the gift as I was by the sentiments it expressed would be a significant understatement. In a mere 11 words, Warren’s statement outlined the future of both the credit union movement and that of Hispanics seeking to economically thrive in the United States. It also provides all of us with guidance in helping both communities cooperatively move forward in the new millennium.
Warren was born in Mexico City to an Anglo father and a Mexican mother, moving to Tucson, Arizona, while still in grade school. The need to assimilate helped define Warren’s character, but he never forgot nor abandoned his Hispanic roots. Providing higher education opportunities and helping create financial stability for Hispanic families became the mission and the passion of his too-short life.
Warren died unexpectedly in 2012 at age 34. Both Miriam De Dios Woodward, my predecessor at Coopera, and I had worked with Warren and are committed to following his guidance.
Warren realized early that credit unions’ cooperative nature aligned with the different Hispanic cultures. As the number of U.S. credit unions continues to decline and more nontraditional vendors fight for our financial business, it’s not unrealistic to believe that Hispanic communities may be the best and most likely hope for the future of the credit union movement.
Think for a moment about the parallels between the two entities. Despite their differences, the social cultures of various Hispanic countries are built on the strong foundation of family and community. Nothing is more important, and nothing else gives both the various cultures and their people their solidarity and strength.
It’s also fair to say that of all financial institutions, credit unions come the closest to establishing “communities” among their members. Their emphasis on member service helps foster the financial growth among those communities, much like Hispanic communities and families foster the social and emotional growth among their members.
Coopera exists to create a link between credit unions and the Hispanic communities they seek to serve. Through analytical study we can define exactly which Hispanic cultures predominate in each city, town or rural area. Our emphasis on digital and remote services can help credit unions reach those groups economically and address their needs in ways in which members themselves prefer to be served.
Hispanic members are like anyone else in terms of the products and services they need and want to survive and thrive in today’s economic environment. The difference is that, unlike other member groups, Hispanics put greater faith and trust in their communities, and credit unions that align with those communities will see greater loyalty and higher levels of service usage among those community members.
Warren Morrow knew that. Through Coopera and previous enterprises that he managed, Warren sought to strengthen the bond between Hispanics and credit unions through considerable effort and, probably, no small amount of prayer. His efforts and their effect are to be lauded.
Warren’s message still lies at the heart of Coopera’s primary mission, and it’s a promise we plan to keep to both credit unions and the Hispanic communities they seek to serve.Leave a comment
It was barely 10 months ago that I joined Coopera as client relations director, having just spent 20 years working with the global credit union movement as part of World Council of Credit Union’s executive staff. Today, I begin my tenure as Coopera’s CEO.
I’m still reeling at the tremendous opportunity I have been given. I’m thrilled to be leading the only organization devoted to helping improve financial services delivery through credit unions for U.S. Hispanic population members nationwide. What an honor!
I am thankful for the remarkable work former CEO Miriam De Dios Woodward has done building this organization. I’m pleased she has taken over the role of CEO of PolicyWorks LLC, Coopera’s sister organization that provides compliance solutions to more than 1,200 credit unions across the country.
As CEO, I plan to carry on the work Miriam started to increase services to a growing number of credit unions and other organizations seeking to effectively serve Hispanic communities and individuals. The market has never been larger, and the need for those services never greater.
Many people don’t realize that there are currently about 55 million Hispanics living in the United States. That makes the U.S. the world’s second-largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico.
Hispanics also are the largest ethnic minority in the United States, and one that credit unions can most effectively serve through their cooperative structure and wide array of financial products and services.
As a native of Panama and first-generation immigrant, I have lived the American immigrant journey. I had the good fortune to come to the U.S. as a teenager on a Fulbright scholarship to pursue degrees in economics and Latin American studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and I have been here ever since. I also have devoted my professional life to credit unions and have long promoted their ability to serve the Hispanic population.
The key factor many credit unions forget, however, is that an effective service profile is at no time found in a one-size-fits-all strategy.
Spanish may be our shared language, but each of us comes from a different culture. The culture in the Dominican Republic is different from that of Colombia, and Mexico is not the same as Cuba. Credit unions must first recognize the origins of their Hispanic members, then find ways to connect with their communities in order to gain the trust necessary to create a trust relationship with those members.
Helping credit unions do just that through analytical tools and strategic planning is part and parcel of Coopera’s mission. Credit unions that understand their current and potential Hispanic membership base can better develop the proper strategic approach to serve those members. Supporting that understanding lies at the core of Coopera’s services.
Given the current politics of immigration, the parameters for serving Hispanic members may seem very different from serving other member groups. Credit unions must be prepared to accept different forms of identification, for example, and be willing to partner with different community organizations to make sure Hispanics receive the financial and social support they need.
For credit unions, it becomes a case of self-examination. Does the credit union truly represent the field of membership that it’s serving? Are there Spanish-speaking employees, executives and maybe even board members who represent what has the potential to become a key constituency?”
For credit unions, effectively serving Hispanic members is much more than a case of just doing the right thing socially and politically. In a marketplace where competition increases while service opportunities decrease, building a strong Hispanic base can be the key to stability, relevancy and increased growth.
Credit unions with significant Hispanic membership often see both loan and deposit growth at rates higher than industry norms, while the average member age has decreased by about 10 years. There is a positive business case for serving the Hispanic market, one that shows the market’s relevancy and sustainability over the long run.
In the end, Coopera’s goal is to help credit unions succeed by understanding and creating empathy for people on the immigrant journey, much like the one I took.
Our industry really can’t ignore a group that in just a couple of decades will comprise one-third of the U.S. population. At Coopera, we’d like to help more credit unions meet their own goals, and successfully serving Hispanic members is an important part of that equation.
Speaking on behalf of Coopera’s excellent staff and myself, we’re all ready to work with partners both veteran and new in embracing a new era of success in serving Hispanic members nationwide.Leave a comment
Enhance Your Service to the Hispanic Market by Learning Something New During Hispanic Heritage Month
The theme of this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated from September 15 to October 15, is “Hispanics: One Endless Voice to Enhance our Traditions.” Hispanic Heritage Month is an ideal time to check in on your credit union’s plans to enhance its service to the increasingly influential Hispanic market.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, make it a point to learn something new about the Hispanic members in your cooperative, as well as those who have yet to be exposed to the credit union difference.
Below are a few questions you may consider asking consumers on your quest to learn more.
Is the immigration process part of your financial journey?
Although most of the 58 million Hispanics living in the U.S. are native-born Americans — and nearly three in four are U.S. citizens — there are nearly 20 million foreign-born Hispanics living and working in the U.S.
Many foreign-born Hispanic individuals have gone through the immigration process to obtain U.S. citizenship, and many others are working on adjusting their status. Others may not be eligible for U.S. immigration status at this time.
The immigration process is a time-intensive and costly one, as well as a major part of the lives of many Hispanic immigrants. Credit unions are in an ideal position to help members going through this process with both financial tools and education.
In addition, simply understanding how complicated the process is and welcoming individuals of all backgrounds at your credit union can go a long way toward building lasting relationships, establishing trust and making people feel welcome and comfortable becoming part of your cooperative.
Although credit unions exist to serve, they must also be sustainable. And, as many are discovering, the immigrant Hispanic profile exemplifies the ideal credit union member. This is especially evident when you consider how Hispanics in the U.S. are driving economic growth.
Which is your preferred language?
Often, credit union leaders interested in adapting their programs for Hispanic consumers are overwhelmed by the misperception they have to begin by translating into Spanish every piece of communication, including websites and disclosures. Thankfully, this is not the case.
It’s true many Hispanics, both U.S. and foreign born, prefer to speak Spanish. In fact, more than 37 million Hispanics speak Spanish at home. Yet, a strategic Hispanic growth plan begins by identifying the specific needs of the community and the particular target market a credit union is trying to reach. Initial Spanish-language materials (or better yet, bilingual materials) will only be required for those introductory products and services, and of course, member communications deemed essential to the strategic Hispanic member growth plan.
Often, Spanish-speakers tend to be the foreign-born population, which is also the most untapped and unbanked group. There is a reason large financials like Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank offer Spanish-language services across all of their channels and even why the government continues to introduce more Spanish-language services and materials. Everyone is trying to reach the most untapped groups because they present the greatest growth opportunity for the majority of businesses.
How can our products improve your financial life?
Hispanic use of top financial products has grown by double-digits over the past five years and outpaced non-Hispanics. Mortgages have grown 30 percent among Hispanics (compared to 9 percent among non-Hispanics) and auto loans have grown 31 percent among Hispanics (compared to 1 percent among non-Hispanics).
Hispanics are the only demographic in the U.S. to have increased their rate of homeownership for the last three consecutive years. What’s more, 9 percent of Hispanics are planning to buy a house in the next 12 months, compared to 6 percent of non-Hispanics.
The number of cars purchased by Hispanics in the U.S. is projected to double in the period between 2010 and 2020. It’s estimated that new car sales to Hispanics will grow by 8 percent over the next five years, compared to a 2 percent decline among the total market.
In short, there are many present and future needs among Hispanic communities for the types of products and services credit unions are uniquely positioned to provide. Understanding those needs can go a long way toward crafting an effective onboarding program.
Being all things to all people is rarely a good strategy, particularly for credit unions that pride themselves on truly knowing their members and providing custom, personalized experiences. The key is to ensure your products and services are culturally relevant and meet the needs of the community. If products aren’t adapted to the market, they will not resonate. The good news is you only have to repackage what you have instead of starting from scratch
To grow, credit unions must make a strategic effort to learn as much as possible about the youngest, fastest growing and most untapped consumer segment in the U.S. The celebration of Hispanic heritage going on right now presents the perfect opportunity to do precisely that.Leave a comment
National Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM), a celebration of Hispanic and Latino culture, heritage and contributions, begins September 15 and continues through October 15 each year.
The celebration starts on September 15 because on that day in 1821, five Latin American countries declared their independence: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18 and September 21, respectively.
HHM presents a great opportunity for credit unions to connect with and support their Hispanic members and staff. Here are a few examples:
• Altura Credit Union in Riverside, Calif., recognizes HHM by promoting a variety of community festivals, contest and events on its website. The credit union also made a $600,000 pledge to the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture & Industry at the Riverside Art Museum earlier this year.
Another way to celebrate HHM is to create a way for your Hispanic staff and members to share stories about their favorite traditions from their countries of origin. Along those lines, we thought it would be fun to share a bit about where the Coopera team came from and our favorite traditions from those countries.
Kenia Calderon, Coopera’s Client Relationship Consultant
What is your country of origin?
What is your favorite tradition?
On September 15, K-12 students participate in the Independence Day marches/parades that take place across the country. People line up along the sidewalks to watch the parade. Each school has its own theme, uniform, music and acts. My siblings and I participated every year. The first time I participated, I was in charge of holding our national flower. The following year, I was a tambourine player. The marches typically take place downtown, and we probably marched more than five miles.
What do you enjoy most about HHM?
Tania Perez, Coopera’s Client Support Specialist
What is your country of origin?
What is your favorite tradition?
My father is from Aguascalientes, Mexico, host of the San Marcos National Fair. It started off as a cattle and harvest fair and is now an international event. There are many exhibitions to enjoy, including bullfighting, which has an important history in the city of Aguascalientes. The fair takes place in April and May. My family who owns a taco business in the city says that many businesses close earlier in the day or close for a couple days to celebrate the fair.
What do you enjoy most about HHM?
Victor Miguel Corro, Coopera’s Client Relations Director
What is your country of origin?
What is your favorite tradition?
During the four days prior to the start of Lent, the Catholic holiday, the whole country comes to a complete stop for Los Carnavales. In many towns, large and small, there is is a full-throttle celebration with parades, floats, queens, music, dancing and costumes.
Festivities include both traditional Spanish and Panamanian customs. The most distinct and fun tradition is “La Mojadera” – a water hose soak. Water tank trucks soak the crowd for hours, along with loud music, entertainment and plenty of Seco, a sugarcane-based spirit and Panama’s national drink. The tradition is undoubtedly inspired by the hot tropical weather. La Mojadera goes on until the early hours of the afternoon, when the crowds go home to take a short nap before preparing to dance the night away and start all over the next day.
Miriam De Dios Woodward, Coopera’s CEO
What is your country of origin?
What is your favorite tradition?
As the religious celebration draws to a close on January 12, a special pilgrimage is held to welcome back “los hijos ausentes” or the “absent children” who live away from town. That night, “la farola,” a cart with a lamp post symbolizing an old way of making public announcements is pushed down the streets of town with a live band and processional of people, announcing the start of the fair. The fair activities that follow include bull riding, concerts, enjoying a variety of food stands, carnival games, parades, traditional dances and the crowning of the fair queen.
Las Fiestas represent a time for family and friends to gather from near and far to share in the tradition that was started many generations ago. To this day, my family continues the pilgrimage to El Grullo during the time of Las Fiestas.
What do you enjoy most about HHM?
As you can see, Latin American countries are rich with culture and traditions. Finding ways to celebrate HHM and giving your members and staff an opportunity to share stories from their countries of origin are great ways to learn from each other to build a more inclusive community.Leave a comment
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, employment opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are booming, with 24.4 percent growth over the last decade. Yet, not enough students are pursuing degrees and careers in the STEM fields to meet the increasing demand. There are currently two STEM job openings for every qualified job seeker.
The lack of STEM representation is even more prevalent among Hispanics, who although account for approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population, only represent about 7 percent of the STEM workforce.
STEM workers enjoy a pay advantage compared with non-STEM workers with similar levels of education. Therefore, increasing the number of Hispanic students pursuing STEM degrees is one way to promote the continued socioeconomic mobility of Hispanic families in the U.S.
There are likely many factors that play a part in the underrepresentation of Hispanic students pursuing STEM – lack of information or academic resources, unfamiliarity of STEM opportunities among parents, etc.
However, according to a July 2018 study from the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice, a lot also has to do with finances. The study found that university students from low-income families who were offered need-based grant aid were 7.87 percentage points more likely to declare a STEM major than similar peers, representing a 42 percent increase.
What does this mean for credit unions?
The Hope Center study means credit unions have the opportunity to impact the number of Hispanic students who are pursuing STEM careers. This can be accomplished by connecting members with a variety of college savings products and opportunities – supported by culturally relevant financial education for parents and children. Consider the following opportunities:
• 529 college savings plans. These savings plans are tax-advantaged college savings vehicles and one of the most popular ways to save for college today. Much like the way 401(k) plans revolutionized the world of retirement savings a few decades ago, 529 college savings plans have revolutionized the world of college savings.
• Coverdell ESA plans. These savings vehicles are often used as supplements to 529 plans or other savings vehicles because they only allow parents to invest a maximum of $2,000 in them each year.
• UGMA/UTMA accounts. Parents or grandparents can also set up custodial accounts available under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) or Unified Gift to Minors Act (UGMA). These accounts allow parents or grandparents to invest as much as they would like each year and in total. However, these investments are not tax-free like they are with 529 plans and Coverdell plans.
• College savings reward programs. Consider ways you might be able to help members save for college through purchases they’re already making. Can you offer credit card points or cash back that go toward a 529 plan or college savings account?
• Separate savings accounts. Perhaps the easiest solution for members is to set up a savings account dedicated to college savings and keep it separate from other accounts. Encourage members to set up automatic contributions and bolster the contributions anytime they receive a raise, bonus or other financial influx.
• Scholarships. Providing a scholarship may be just the financial – and confidence – boost a deserving high school student needs to attend college and pursue a STEM career. Just look at Gabriel Hernandez, who received a scholarship from JetStream Federal Credit Union, made possible by the Warren Morrow Hispanic Growth Fund Grant. In his scholarship essay, Hernandez wrote, “I know that I will succeed in college, but this scholarship will show me that others believe in me, too.”
No matter how your members plan to pay for college, it’s important that they save early and often. Consider offering educational classes and information – in both English and Spanish – to communicate the importance of saving for college and share resources to make it easier. The more financially prepared they are, the more likely it is they will go to college and pursue their dream career – STEM or otherwise.Leave a comment