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PORTLAND, Ore. – While other credit unions may talk a good game about marketing to young adults, Unitus Community Credit Union is hitting the pavement and utilizing a strategy banks have practiced for years: college campus visits. The $632-million Unitus is targeting six college campuses, one in each of the six counties defined in its community charter. Business development officers visited campuses during fall semester registration, and have returned for additional visits during the first two months of the semester. “I hired a new business development person last year, not too far out of college, and he came up with the idea to visit campuses and talk to students,” said Laurie Kresl, Vice President of Planning and Business Development. The credit union loads its logo-wrapped Ford Explorer with an exhibit booth, marketing materials and premiums, and sets up shop at registration or in a high traffic area. When possible, the Explorer is integrated in to the display. As part of the “College Tour `05″ promotion, new members who open a checking account are eligible to win an Apple iBook notebook computer or an iPod Mini. The credit union is also giving away water bottles to the first 100 students to speak with business development representatives. “We’ve signed up more than 100 new members so far, and this month has been the busiest,” Kresl said, adding she sends at least two BDOs, sometimes three if the department anticipates heavy traffic. “We have three visits this week, and five more this month,” Kresl said.The promotion and campus visits will end the last week in October, at which time the credit union will select the sweepstakes winners. According to the VP, getting permission to visit a college campus to promote credit union membership wasn’t as intimidating as it sounds. “The only thing that was difficult was getting the right person who could say yes.They must have had student helpers, because we got an answer in the spring, but by fall, we had fallen through the cracks,” she said. Kresl said her staff has reported only one other credit union taking advantage of registration opportunities, although at each campus there were always at least two major banks. Promoting credit cards to college students has received bad press in recent years, but Kresl said schools did not ban the credit union from taking Visa card applications. One college did ask the credit union not to openly promote its credit card, not because it was concerned about student debt, but because it had an agreement with Capital One to co-brand a credit card/student ID. Kresl said she is planning to budget for campus visits again next year, and will expand the program to include on-sites during the spring semester, too. “Next year, we’re going to try to focus on student loans,” she said. [email protected]

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