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Caroline Student Credit Union

The Caroline Student Credit Union has been running since January, 2010 and is one of nine Ithaca City Schools to run its own hands-on savings program. The goal of the program is to provide early financial education through experiential learning for ALL interested students.
Operation of the Program
The Caroline Savings Team consists of volunteer parents who are trained in as tellers. We meet every Thursday 7:30 - 8:00 am right before school in the Caroline Elementary lobby as the children enter the building from their buses. Each student learns “hands-on” by opening a real savings account under his/her name. From school they can make weekly deposits into their accounts which are held at Alternatives Federal Credit Union. Each child gets the opportunity to form a savings habit by setting aside money. A savings habit is formed by bringing in a deposit week after week after week. The amount saved is irrelevant - 1 penny each week is plenty! Everyone can fill out a deposit slip and save through practice regardless of the amount.
Questions Raised
Do Alternative Savings Programs increase the inequality gap between the “haves” and have-nots” by causing children from lower-income homes feel ostracized if they deposit less than the wealthier kid next to them?

Elementary school kids do not see money the way adults do. This may be because money is typically out of their reach and controlled exclusively by adults. Although every child surely overhears and feels their caregivers’ relationships to money, an elementary school child’s own experience with money does not yet exist, or is just barely forming
It is a principle of the program to teach children that any amount of saving is a good thing, and that the amount is irrelevant. In reality, the amount that each individual child brings varies week by week (e.g. the same individual will deposit $0.20 one week, $3 the next, etc.). To date, the pride of being able to count and add and fill out a deposit slip, seems to supersede comparisons of who has more or less. Kids largely respond with greater interest to coins than to dollar bills anyway. Each child gets noticed for showing up and strongly encouraged to continue saving every Thursday as part of what they learn at school!