In a little over a year since HarborOne Credit Union opened its university-like learning center, Maureen Wilkinson has discovered the unexpected.
For one, while the focus in the beginning was to offer a variety of financial education classes, Wilkinson, vice president and director of the HarborOne U, found that they have not been popular with adults.
“I think because people are feeling saturated with information,” Wilkinson said. “Or they might be embarrassed if they see someone there they know, like a neighbor.”
That’s not to say the credit union’s HarborOne U, a creation of the $1.8 billion HarborOne CU in Brockton, Mass., hasn’t been successful. Quite the contrary. Launched in June 2010, the center offers seminars on youth financial literacy, first-time home buyers, credit counseling, retirement and estate planning.
Other offerings include health and wellness seminars, searching for the right college, selecting elder care options, understanding Social Security and Medicare benefits, professional development opportunities and other program offerings geared toward life-stage events.
As of June 30, nearly 2,000 people have attended classes and events and 106 classes have taken place at the 3,100-square foot center, Wilkinson said.
The space is made up of a business information center that houses computers, a color printer and Small Business Administration materials. HarborOne U also has classrooms, which have been heavily used by groups and for networking meetings, Wilkinson said. An executive conference room makes up the third section of the center.
At any given time, the center is bustling with activity from groups such as the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts participating in endeavors to earn badges to American Cancer Society Relay For Life committee meetings. In between are continuing education classes for Realtors, certified public accountants and licensed day care professionals. Kids and teens have flocked to the Saturday interactive financial classes.
Wilkinson said the CU does not charge fees to use the HarborOne U space or participate in its seminars and programs. The facility is open to both members and nonmembers.
Among HarborOne U’s highly attended sessions is the three-part series on Intuit’s QuickBooks business accounting software program, Wilkinson said. “It’s crazy popular,” she noted.
Another in-demand activity is the seminars on using social media programs to build one’s business, Wilkinson said. Nearly one half of HarborOne U’s users come in to use the business information center.
Word is certainly spreading about what the facility has to offer. At a HarborOne U-hosted book signing that featured several authors on using and writing blogs and Twitter, 160 people turned out for the event.
HarborOne U also offers personal enrichment classes centered on life-stage events, including helping people prepare to receive their Social Security benefits or offering assisted living options to the adult children of elderly parents. Home buyer and college planning sessions are held, too.
“The goal for the life-stage classes is to not have people make decision in a crisis but to be prepared,” Wilkinson said.
On a lighter note, seminars on organizing spaces and time management have attracted both men and women. HarborOne U has also carved out two spaces for art galleries. Local artists display their work and Wilkinson said visitors have even purchased some of their pieces. Every three months, she brings in two new artists.
HarborOne CU doesn’t promote any of its products and services through HarborOne U, Wilkinson said. However, she has noticed that some of the center’s repeat users have sought out information on loans, investments and credit counseling. Of those who visit the facility, 75% of them are not members, she said. The roughly $1 million in new accounts from existing members that have opened since HarborOne U rolled out had referral ties to the center. Many of them were business owners.