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ATMs in high schools -- good idea but watch out for fees

Rob Holstrom, assistant principal at West Linn High School in West Linn, Ore., says his school recently installed an ATM just as a convenience for students and faculty. He's hoping students will become as educated about budgeting as his daughter did when her high school got one.

"We gave her a card and you could only pull out $5 per transaction -- it didn't have a service fee. My wife and I liked it because she had lunch money without having to carry cash all the time. She was a freshman and she had to learn to budget. We could oversee the account and see how she was managing it. It was a great tool."

Training ground
Perhaps one of the best ways to teach kids checkbook management is through hands-on experience. Several high schools have student-run bank or credit union branches on campus.

Mount Blue High School in Farmington, Maine, has two teller stations manned by students. An employee of Franklin Savings Bank oversees the training, and handles opening new accounts and more difficult transactions. The little branch is housed in the business department and has been serving students and faculty for 11 years.

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"It's not a profitable endeavor, more a community service -- we're giving an education to the kids," says Dee LaPlant, assistant vice president of customer service at Franklin Savings Bank.

"Most of the kids come from the business program. Training is constant; they're still getting training on the last day of school. There have been few mistakes -- quite amazing -- no more than at our regular branches; they're so closely supervised."

Across the continent, in the Vancouver, Wash., area, iQ Credit Union has put branches in six high schools since 1995. Approximately 100 students are involved in running the branches, says Danette LaChapelle, vice president of marketing at iQ.

"All of the students go through training in the fall before the branch opens. The campus branches aren't a source of income, but they're successful in that they're learning how to operate a business, execute transactions, and open new accounts.

"They're also learning about customer service and the interview process because they have to do an interview before being accepted into the class. Students from each branch come to our credit union branch for a summer internship. The following year they're the manager at their school branch."

A bonus for the schools with iQ branches -- all have no-fee ATMs.

Trend takes hold
Unfortunately, the ATMs that will likely gain a foothold in most high schools will have fees. Banks don't see high school-based ATMs as a source of income because of the low number of transactions. Therefore schools will have to lease or buy ATMs -- and to do that they need to charge a transaction fee. When the machine is paid off, the fee will shift to paying for student activities.

Daryl Grove's company, GoodVantage Resources in Gresham, Ore., installed an ATM in one high school in 2002, but was turned down by a handful of other schools. Now that some educators have seen the income opportunity, Groves says there are several principals who are interested in talking with him. The schools are aware they walk a fine line when it comes to fees.

"The schools don't want to appear to be merchandising the kids," says Grove. "They want to keep the parents from having to come to school to give them cash. Maybe it's an idea whose time has come. I have felt all along it has potential. It was a tremendous amount of effort initially."

-- Posted: June 22, 2004
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See Also
10 tips for ATM safety
Skimming the cash out of your account
Depositing at ATMs
ATM glossary
More ATM stories

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