Collaborate to Educate

New Jersey credit unions embrace the cooperative spirit to help students finance college.


Students today face more than just academic rigors when preparing for college. The financial mountain they must climb can be just as imposing, and grants, scholarships, and family contributions rarely cover the climbing cost of higher education.

The student lending market in New Jersey was a perfect storm, says Issa Stephan, president and CEO at First Financial Federal Credit Union ($167M, Wall, NJ). Lenders were hesitant to lend, and the demand for funding was growing rapidly. First Financial recognized the opportunity.

To fill the void, First Financial relied on the spirit of the cooperative movement. Instead of attacking the problem as individual credit unions, First Financial and 16 other cooperatives pooled their resources and generated $50 million in available funds. The collaboration reduced risk, enhanced access for smaller credit unions, and securitized the loans.

Overall, the collaboration helped credit unions and members alike. Check out the clip below to learn more about how well the initiative worked. Still want more? Check out the full event, “Peak Season, Peak Opportunity: Strategies for Serving the Student Loan Market.”