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Fuel Accounts

Credit Union :METRO
Assets :$780,000,000
Address :200 Revere Beach Parkway | Chelsea, MA 02150-9100
Start Date :January 2010
Open / Closed End :Open

Loan Underwriting Qualifications :

  • Middle or high school student in Chelsea School System
  • Families agree to save a predetermined amount each month based on the goal of $1,500 by senior year
  • Families agree to attend at least six savings circle meetings per year to learn more about financial management, the college application process and to receive/provide peer support
  • Students agree to participate in an afterschool program for homework support and a positive environment

Rates, Fees, and Terms :

  • Families receive a 1:1 match, creating a $3,000 college fund for each student
  • The monthly savings amount for each family varies depending on age of child; goal is to have $1,500 saved by senior year
  • Funds are in the name of the Chelsea Education Foundation FBO the student; funds do not need to be reported by the student when applying for financial aid, scholarships and grants
  • Funds are applied to qualified higher education expenses

Participant Qualifications :

* Middle or high school student in Chelsea School System * Families agree to save a predetermined amount each month based on the goal of $1,500 by senior year * Families agree to attend at least six savings circle meetings per year to learn more about financial management, the college application process and to receive/provide peer support * Students agree to participate in an afterschool program for homework support and a positive environment

Target Market :

Low income families in the Chelsea area that would not normally consider a college education within their financial ability

Marketing Strategy :

The primary marketing tool for this program involved grass-root efforts and school support. FUEL reached out to community organizations asking assistance in identifying qualified families and then provided informational seminars. In addition, FUEL met with interested families on a one-to-one basis explaining the program and answering questions. Several meetings took place at Metro. Because of the well-established, trusting relationship with the community organizations and Metro, families were comfortable engaging in the process.

Program Results/Statistics :

Program began in January 2010 when 100 students and their families were enrolled in the program. The goal is to have 400 participants once matching funds have been committed. As of March, only two families have dropped out because they moved out of the area. There is a waiting list of students who want to enroll in the program.

Member Benefits :

  • Families have the support to save and receive matched funds to help their children attend college
  • Students and families openly discuss college – a dialogue that previously did not take place
  • The saving circle meetings keep families engaged in the process
  • The high school drop out rate in Chelsea is high; the after school program provides students with a safe after-school program that additionally provides the academic assistance needed to keep them engaged in school, help them achieve good grades and ultimately qualify them to attend college
  • Two universities have agreed to fund on an annual basis, 25 full scholarships and an unlimited number of partial scholarships as part of the program

Additional Information :

Families United in Educational Leadership (FUEL) is the result of a local philanthropist, Robert Hildreth, sharing his vision with the Chelsea School Department and Metro Credit Union. Prior to FUEL, Metro sponsored a Community Roundtable in 2009 to bring Chelsea community leaders together to discuss how to bring social programs to Chelsea more effectively and efficiently. It was the first time these leaders met together, according to Robert Cashman, CEO. Many of the organizations had overlapping interests and programs and the meeting created collaboration and new initiatives. When Hildreth introduced FUEL, the collaboration for Metro with the other community organizations was established.

All accounts are funded through Metro. Matching funds are donated by Metro, other businesses and youth programs in the city of Chelsea. Metro has made a three year commitment to the program. FUEL accounts are held in the name of Chelsea Education Foundation FBO the student. When students apply for financial aid, the funds do not need to be declared. If families leave the program early, they receive any monies they saved to the account. Charlene Bauer, SVP Strategic Initiatives at Metro, points out that Chelsea is a low- to moderate-income area. Over 80% of students participate in the food supplement program. The city has a high immigrant population, many of whom are undocumented. This creates a lot of challenges for the schools because the population is very mobile. Bauer states that only 15% of the students who start kindergarten in Chelsea actually graduate from Chelsea High School. FUEL assists in bringing stability to these numbers.

Metro accepts Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs) that can be used in lieu of SSNs for reporting of dividends. Many of Chelsea’s unbanked population do not have SSNs and as a result use alternative financial providers such as payday lenders. By accepting ITINs, Metro is offering a safe and trusted alternative.

Metro recently began participating in La-Vida, Inc., a program dedicated to help meet the material and spiritual needs of low income Latinos. An IDA program similar to FUEL is being set up for approximately 20 high school students. Families participate in savings circles and the students attend after school programs similar to FUEL. The only difference is the accounts are set up as custodial accounts in the students’ names.

FUEL and the La-Vida programs are just two of the ways in which Metro Credit Union is working to improve financial literacy within its community. The credit union offers a number of other programs to youth, teens, and young adults to enhance financial management skills and help build wealth. The credit union also has partnerships with many community organizations and provides financial education to their clients. It’s a large part of the Metro’s outreach efforts to low income households within its community, concludes both Bauer and Cashman.