Program Spikes Student Loan Growth
Editor's Note: The financial figures reported in this story and Credit Union Times Dec. 17, 2014 print issue will not match those posted online by the NCUA. CU Times partnered with Callahan & Associates to analyze the NCUA's call report data using Calllahan methodology.
When Robert Bruemmer, executive vice president for $2.7 billion Landmark Credit Union based in New Berlin, Wis., heard that his credit union was in the top five nationally in terms of student loan growth as analyzed by Callahan & Associates, he was more chagrinned than he was surprised.
Callahan’s measured private student loan growth for the top 20 credit unions with more than $20 million in assets for the 12-month period ending June 30, 2014. Landmark ranked fourth with a 188.98% growth for the period.
“We started offering private student loans for the first time in 2012,” Bruemmer said. “That’s a rather large increase, but when you’re starting from zero that’s easy to do.”
A key driver to the current upsurge in student loan interest appeared to be the involvement in several CUSOs created especially to offer support and participation opportunities for credit unions interested in entering or re-entering the market.
Such is the case with Landmark’s program, which is part of Credit Union Student Choice, a Washington-based CUSO with credit union participants nationwide. For participants it was a quick start in an area that Landmark didn’t want to traverse on its own.
“We’ve had member requests in the past for student loans and we’ve had to send them elsewhere,” Bruemmer said. “We didn’t want to do that anymore, but we also didn’t want to start our own program from scratch.”
The only marketing the credit union did was to place “blurbs” in some issues of its newsletter after the program launched. The members, Bruemmer said, quickly responded.
“We wanted to role it out as a niche product,” said Bruemmer, noting that Landmark earmarked just $2 million for student loans during first year. “It’s growing two- to three-times faster than we anticipated”
Landmark had previously offered government guaranteed loans through Great Lakes Higher Education Corp., based in Madison, Wis. Like many credit unions, Landmark still managing many of those loans.
“We have about $13.3 million in outstanding student loans and $8.1 million of that is the old government program,” Bruemmer said. “Our current private student loan portfolio balance stands at about $5.2 million.”
As far as new loans go, Landmark officials purposely chose Credit Union Student Choice so that all loans would be made to Landmark members and that the credit union would own 100% of the loans, Bruemmer said.
Further, the loans also have to be made to students attending what Bruemmer described as “public universities.” “We’re not granting loans to attend for-profit schools,” he added. “There is a distinct difference and we’re very much aware of what is going on.”