A representative from PSECU, one of the state's largest credit unions and the official credit union of Lehigh Athletics, sits in the Financial Center ready to help students. Lehigh unvailed the center on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. (Cassie Fiore/B&W Staff)

Financial Education Center opens on Mountaintop Campus

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As seniors prepare for graduation, the job market weighs heavily on their minds. But once they begin their first jobs and receive their first paychecks, some graduates might not know how to properly handle their money. 

The Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union, PSECU, aims to change that at its new Financial Education Center on Mountaintop Campus, which opened April 17.

According to PSECU’s website, the organization was formed by 22 employees who started it with only $90. It operates as a community-based, not-for-profit organization that worked for its members.

Patricia A. Johnson, the vice president of finance and administration at Lehigh, said the goal of the center is to educate students about personal finance so they can be better equipped for the working world.

“We’re hoping that our students will learn real life skills,” she said.

The new center also plays a role in better connecting undergraduate students to Mountaintop.

Johnson said as a part of the Path to Prominence initiative, Lehigh will increase the frequency of the busing system. This will decrease the time it takes to get to the center from 20 to 10 minutes and encourage undergraduate students to visit the Financial Education Center and the rest of the Mountaintop.

Candice Richards, Lehigh’s financial education community manager, said PSECU aims to promote awareness around financial planning, budgeting, loans and opening credit cards.

PSECU has a presence on 23 other college campuses and is the official credit union of Lehigh Athletics. Lehigh students, alumni, faculty, staff and their families are able to open an account and become a member for life.

“We really want students to be savvy with how they handle money,” Richards said.

Attracting visitors, however, has been a challenge for the new initiative.

Richards said roughly 60 people have visited the center since its opening. Most of these visitors came solely for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The credit union hopes to forge a stronger presence on campus. Richards said it plans to expand advertising and continue to sponsor organizations. PSECU has worked with campus groups to host interactive workshops, tablings and one-on-one meetings with students.

The center also offers five paid internships. These interns are primarily hired from the College of Business and Economics, but PSECU is open to students from all disciplines. Richards said the current group of interns consists of four undergraduate students and one graduate student, all of whom are studying in the business school.

Georgette C. Phillips, the dean of the College of Business and Economics, said these internships provide opportunities for Lehigh students.

“Anything that gives students hands-on, real-life experience is great,” Phillips said.

Interns learn about the banking system and are paid to serve as brand ambassadors for PSECU.

Jerry Schlechter, ‘20, an intern at PSECU who was hired as the assistant manager, said he chose to pursue the internship to find what organization was the best fit for him and best compliments his finance and marketing double major.

Schlechter said his primary role is to run information tables, plan and run events, and create presentations and workshops with organizations on campus.

“On campus we’re less sales-focused and less branch-like, and we’re more focused on education,” he said.

The partnership between PSECU and college students is central to the credit union’s business model.

“We believe that if we can interact and help share financial education with young people, then that helps secure their future,” Richards said, “and it helps to stem the tide of poor choices that we are making as Americans in terms of finances.”

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