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Credit unions can help the students taking on educational debt

Credit unions can gain members by offering student-focused financial products and resources.

It's clear the cost of gaining an education is increasing along with student loan debt. More and more college students are using loans to pay for their college expenses, including tuition, housing and food. In June, federal lending, which mainly consisted of educational loans, increased $5.4 billion from May, according to Bloomberg. Additionally, approximately 71 percent of college seniors graduated with student loan debt in 2012, according to Project Student Debt by the Institute for College Access and Success.

The amount of loan debt students carry with them after college varies by educational institution and state, according to Project Student Debt, though the average amount of educational debt in the U.S. is $29,400 for a bachelor's degree.

At the end of 2012, the top five states for the highest average student loan debt were Delaware ($33,649), New Hampshire ($32,698), Pennsylvania ($31,675), Minnesota ($31,156) and Rhode Island ($31,156), according to data collected by the project.

On the other hand, graduates in some states, such as Wyoming ($21,241), Nevada ($20,568), Arizona ($20,299), California ($20,269) and New Mexico ($17,994)., are leaving college with less than the national average amount of debt.

Financial products geared towards students
Credit unions can help college students in numerous ways. For starters, credit unions can offer special savings and checking accounts for college students with beneficial interest rates and low or no fees. These products can bring in new members who are entering college and need easy access to a local financial institution because they'll have loan refund checks to deposit every semester.

Credit unions can also provide budgeting guidance. Many college students learn quickly their loan refund check has to last for months until the next disbursement. By having online tools or staff who can personally work with members, students will learn how to better manage their loan money, and in the end may be able to take on less debt.

Organizations would also be smart to provide other student-focused resources such as information on how to save money on textbooks or living expenses. Any guide that can help a student save money will be welcome to a borrower. 

By offering student-specific financial products, credit members can gain college freshmen's attention over the big banks in the area. The organizations can also gain the student's attention by offering incentives for membership such as rewards points and prizes, like iPods and gift cards.