In a Nutshell: Students, faculty, staff, and their families often turn to University of Nebraska Federal Credit Union (NUFCU) when they need financial education and guidance. The institution offers free educational resources and counseling for members, and it provides coaching to help college students meet their unique goals. Beyond serving its members, NUFCU works to build stronger communities in the Lincoln area by supporting charitable efforts and encouraging volunteerism. And NUFCU plans to engage with more underserved populations in the future and adjust its mission to meet the needs of the next generation.
When a University of Nebraska Federal Credit Union (NUFCU) member recently needed home repairs but lacked the ready cash to complete them, she turned to the institution for a home equity line of credit. While she was applying, a service representative discovered that she was also carrying a significant amount of debt.
So instead of just providing the loan she wanted and sending her on her way, NUFCU helped her refinance her mortgage. The credit union reduced her rate and term considerably and even bundled her debt into her mortgage payment. On top of that, she paid no application or closing fees.
“It left her in a very good financial position compared to where she was — and she was even able to take care of some car repairs,” said Dena Noe, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at NUFCU. “It illustrates the difference between a financial institution that’s looking out for the best interests of members and one that’s just looking out for the bottom line.”
NUFCU was founded in 1937 by a group of seven faculty members. Initially, the institution was only open to University of Nebraska faculty, with staff eligible to join soon after. In 2006, the institution added students to its membership field, and NUFCU also expanded its service to serve family members and others with ties to the University of Nebraska. Today, the credit union includes more than 11,000 members and controls over $100 million in assets.
But NUFCU’s value extends well beyond its remarkable numbers. The credit union demonstrates a commitment to its community by providing educational resources and promoting financial wellness initiatives in its service areas. Through its charitable work and educational outreach, NUFCU helps members and non-members alike meet their goals and needs.
Free Resources and Counseling Foster Financial Prosperity
NUFCU offers no-cost financial education and services to its members and extends those resources to the entire community. From its free budgeting software to one-on-one consultations, it strives to help everyone achieve financial success.
One way it pursues that mission is through free credit report reviews. Members can make an appointment to speak with a member service representative who reviews their credit report. The representative provides feedback and insight that can empower members to correct, maintain, and even improve their credit rating. Representatives also discuss ways that members can save money by consolidating and refinancing debt at lower interest rates.
For busy professionals who may not have the time to sit down for personal sessions, NUFCU also offers Practical Money Skills, a suite of online educational resources. The modules cover topics including budgeting, saving, financial institutions, credit, debt, identity theft, and preparing for life events.
The program also offers lesson plans for educators who work with students from pre-K through college as well as special-needs students. Practical Money Skills also includes games that teach financial literacy through fun activities and additional resources and financial tools.
NUFCU also partnered with GreenPath to provide coaching and counseling to members who experience financial setbacks. When the credit union refers members to GreenPath, they are automatically enrolled in a debt management program, enabling NUFCU to monitor their progress toward paying off debt.
While those programs and services are available to student members of NUFCU, the credit union also offers other programs aimed at their unique needs and situations.
Equipping Students to Make Smarter Decisions in College and Beyond
Students attending the University of Nebraska at Lincoln can take advantage of financial counseling at the Student Money Management Center (SMMC). There, they can find free one-on-one mentoring that covers spending plans, financial goals, establishing and managing credit, paying off debts, investing, and dealing with student loans.
Sessions can focus on general financial literacy, solving a particular financial problem, or a combination of both.
And NUFCU supports those educational efforts by contributing money to the SMMC each time a member joins. The credit union helps the center continue to educate students on a variety of topics.
The SMMC also provides a roster of online tools that may be valuable to students. Those resources include a list of free money management apps, free personal finance programs, games, quizzes, and other informative resources.
NUFCU also offers a seminar called Adulting 101, held on both university and community college campuses. These informational sessions are aimed at students preparing to graduate and get their first jobs. Adulting 101 covers budgeting, credit scores, credit cards, loans, and the pitfalls of going into debt to assist them in the transition. The course also pays special attention to common questions, including those about 401k plans offered by employers.
“Getting into your employer’s 401k is probably your best way to get yourself started on that next level of savings,” Noe said. “Those are the kinds of things we cover with the students who are just coming out of college.”
Support for Charities Helps Build Stronger Communities
NUFCU’s focus also extends beyond just support and education for its members. The institution also gets involved in charitable work through local organizations to help improve the financial well-being of all members of its communities.
Through its Star City Stocking Stuffers program, NUFCU collects toys and gifts for children each holiday season. Those gifts go to its Community Action Program, where parents can “purchase” them with points earned through activities like taking financial literacy classes. In 2019, NUFCU made one of its most significant contributions to the program, enabling parents to work toward financial stability while also ensuring that Christmas dreams came true.
NUFCU also participates in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program. The Salvation Army provides ornaments to hang on a Christmas tree in an NUFCU service center, and each ornament is a request for a specific gift. Credit union and community members can select an ornament and fund a gift purchase.
But gift-giving is only part of what the holidays are all about. NUFCU also campaigns each November to collect and donate goods to campus food pantries.
During the holiday season, many charitable organizations, including the ones that NUFCU supports, often find themselves short-staffed. But those in need of additional support can contact Noe, and the credit union will connect the organization with individuals seeking volunteer opportunities.
By facilitating volunteerism, NUFCU helps charitable organizations get the assistance they need, and those volunteers qualify for NUFCU membership, enabling access to the institution’s member-focused products and services to help them lead healthier financial lives.
NUFCU: On a Mission to Foster Financial Inclusion
NUFCU plans to continue providing the same hands-on, member-focused service for years to come. But the institution also wants to find new ways to reach underserved populations and meet the needs of the next generation of consumers.
“I’ve talked to those people about financial fear and financial anxiety,” said Keith Kauffeld, President and CEO of NUFCU. “At our strategic planning session, for instance, we spoke about different demographic groups and how they view money, saving for retirement, and medical costs, and how to help them deal with those situations.”
Kauffeld predicts that more credit unions will emphasize financial inclusion in 2020. In particular, he anticipates seeing institutions focus on setting goals to help people build savings so they can meet emergency costs.
“Up to 60% of Americans don’t have $400 in savings,” Kauffeld said. “What can we, as credit union movement, do to help more Americans have $400 in savings? That’s going to be part of the focus going forward.”
Education will play a significant role in helping members save more money, and NUFCU already has a head-start with its programs and resources that help facilitate that goal. And credit union members and students at the University of Nebraska can look forward to even more tools as they work toward financial independence.