UW Credit Union expands eligibility to all college students

September 28, 2016

MADISON A credit union that has traditionally served University of Wisconsin System students has extended eligibility to include all current and former college students who reside in the state, in a move Gov. Scott Walker says will help more students get low-interest loans and refinance debt.

The governor and UW Credit Union President and CEO Paul Kundert announced the change at a joint news conference on Tuesday. The credit union's board approved the move in August and the state Department of Financial Institution's Office of Credit Unions certified the expansion on Sept. 8.

Walker said he often hears concerns about how to make college more affordable.

"This offers a tremendous opportunity for students not only to get student loan financing but particularly for those looking to consolidate and refinance," he said.

UW Credit Union offers student loans with interest rates ranging from 3.2 percent to 6.8 percent. The credit union also consolidates and refinances student loans with rates ranging from 2.2 percent to 4 percent, according to the credit union's website.

Until now, UW Credit Union has generally restricted its membership to: students and alumni from the University of Wisconsin System; Madison College, a technical school; Edgewood College; UW System employees; students attending school within five miles of a UW Credit Union office; and credit union employees. The credit union currently serves 218,000 members.

Under the expansion, any Wisconsin resident who is currently enrolled or has attended any accredited institution of higher learning, be it located in the United States or overseas, is eligible.

Democrats have been criticizing Walker and his fellow Republicans for months over what they see as a lack of action to help students deal with mounting debt. The issue has been a hot one on lawmakers campaign trails as the Nov. 8 election nears.

Scot Ross, executive director of liberal group One Wisconsin Now, told reporters after the news conference that expanding eligibility will do almost nothing to help students refinance their loans since they often lack collateral, assets and credit history.

"This is how Scott Walker treats all real problems in Wisconsin," Ross said. "How can I get out of this by doing as little as possible to actually help people?"

Kundert told reporters that loans are based on individual situations and rates will vary. He didn't have any estimates of how many new members might join as a result of the eligibility expansion.

 

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Associated Press