What Can $40,000 Do For Financial Education?

An ongoing partnership with Mesa Community College is just one component of TruWest’s commitment to supporting secondary education.

Top-Level Takeaways

  • TruWest Credit Union partnered with Mesa Community College in 2019 to offer financial workshops for students
  • In 2022, it expanded the partnership with a $40,000 grant to support MCC’s First Year Experience Program. This year, the cooperative will open a Financial Wellness Center on campus.
Rachel Caballero, Community Development Manager, TruWest Credit Union

As not-for-profit financial cooperatives, credit unions have long sought to fill financial education gaps for their members and their communities. However, the latest statistics show there is still a lot of work to do. This is particularly true among younger Americans. According to Forbes, nearly eight in 10 American teenagers don’t maintain a savings account and 87% say they don’t really understand their personal finances.

TruWest Credit Union ($1.5B, Tempe, AZ) has been doing its part for the past few years. In 2019, the cooperative partnered with Mesa Community College (MCC) to offer financial education on a smaller scale than what had traditionally been available.

“There were big universities partnering with big banks,” says Rachel Caballero, community development manager for TruWest. “We wanted to take a holistic approach to education with a partner that shared our mission, vision, and values.”

The Right Partnership

TruWest is proud of the culture of caring it has built within the organization. That culture aligns with Mesa Community College’s approach to caring for its students.

In 2017, the two organizations began discussing how they could create a partnership to bring the credit union philosophy of people helping people into the community college space via financial education, not only for students but also for staff and family members of students. That partnership officially kicked off in 2019.

In 2022, TruWest Credit Union expanded its relationship with the college through a $40,000 grant to MCC’s First Year Experience, a year-long program that provides services and support to first generation students or students in need of additional academic support. The grant covers tuition and fees for approximately 50 students who otherwise might not have had the funds to pursue higher education.


In 2022, TruWest Credit Union made a $40,000 contribution to Mesa Community College’s First Year Experience program, which supports first generation students and students in need of academic support.

“This is our next wave of members,” Caballero says. “Many first-generation students are working or even serving as the primary breadwinners for their households, so making the choice to pursue a college education can be challenging.”

In addition to providing scholarship money for MCC students, TruWest also funds student leadership opportunities as well as financial literacy workshops. TruWest tailors those workshops to encompass what students want to learn — from saving, budgeting, using credit, and investing to basic banking terminology and how to start transitioning, financially, into adulthood. To date, the workshops have been open to First Year Experience students and staff members as well as friends and family of students. In 2023, TruWest plans to expand its financial education offerings even further to reach more people throughout campus.

But the credit union’s support for education doesn’t end with its MCC partnership.

“We support education all across the board,” Caballero says. This includes working closely with the Arizona Council on Economic Education.

What Does The Future Hold?

TruWest has a lot in the works for 2023. The cooperative plans to open a financial wellness center on campus to provide deeper guidance to students preparing for their next steps in life. The center will be open to the public, too — a nod to TruWest’s comprehensive approach to supporting both higher education and financial education.

“We want to help put them in a better financial situation and assist them as they prepare for big life changes,” Caballero says. “Obviously, we’d love for the students we share financial advice with to open accounts with us as well.

Building stronger relationships with students will not only generate a positive ROI for the credit union but also allow it to offer support to students and family members when they need ongoing guidance and financial coaching. As part of its comprehensive approach to higher education, TruWest’s support also includes contributing food, clothing, and personal hygiene and cleaning supplies to the Mesa Market, an on-campus pantry for MCC students. In 2020, the credit union even refurbished market space on one of MCC’s campuses.

Best Practices And Advice

Open communication and ongoing collaboration have made the TruWest partnership with MCC a success.

“Being clear about what we wanted to bring to the students and working together to devise a full plan has been imperative,” Caballero says. “We’re also continuing to communicate with MCC after each workshop to understand what they liked and what they’d change.”

The credit union then makes adjustments based on student needs. The first workshop for each cohort focuses on the basics — including what students need to open an account, how compounding interest works, the difference between net versus gross income, what is a budget and why it’s important, and how to establish savings goals.


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“It’s important to set the foundation so we can build on the workshops throughout the year,” Caballero says.

The credit union also has learned that the best conversations sometimes happen between peers.

“Often, information is much more well-received when it’s coming from someone who has been through that same situation personally and shares the students’ mindset,” Caballero says.

To that end, the FYE program includes an ambassador component that is critically important. Ambassadors are students who completed the program and applied to help the next year’s FYE students by serving as a mentor. Ambassadors understand the value of FYE and want others to benefit from it, too.

TruWest plans to expand the ambassador role in the future with the opportunity to work in the Financial Wellness Center on campus and network with a credit union mentor to learn about a career within the industry.

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January 2, 2023

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