You do not have to look far to find someone who faces difficulties saving for higher education. That person may even be you. Whether it be rising rent prices, higher education costs, or lower wages overall, finding a way to save enough for your higher education and the future can be challenging.
Since 2005, Montana’s Credit Unions has been committed to providing financial help to students with the Matched Education Savings Account (MESA). This collaboration with local schools and universities helps students who have low to moderate incomes save for higher education costs.
How does MESA work?
MESA is intended for those who would like to establish a pattern of regular savings and, ultimately, have enough money for school. Participants can save up to $500 and, in return, they receive between three and eight times that amount in match funds from their credit union. The actual match depends on the school they’re attending.
This means when eligible students save $500 and complete a financial education course, they can earn from $1,500 to $4,000 in match funds to apply to their ongoing education costs.
Participating in the MESA program is more than just saving and earning money for school. Each participant receives valuable financial education that will help them make well‐informed choices and continue to build their assets long after the program ends.
Am I eligible for MESA?
While Montana credit unions offer services to those in all of life’s financial situations, the MESA program is dedicated to helping underserved and low-income populations and has eligibility requirements. In order to participate in MESA, an individual or family must meet all of the following qualifications:
- Have an annual household income equal to or less than $23,540 for one person. Add $8,320 for each additional household member.
- Have a household net worth that does not exceed $10,000. (When determining net worth, the primary dwelling and one motor vehicle owned by a member of the household will be excluded.)
- The applicant must have earned income.
- The applicant must be a Montana, Idaho, Oregon or Washington state resident enrolled at one of the participating schools.
MESA participants commit to depositing at least $25 a month in their MESA savings account for a period of six consecutive months and participating in personal finance and money management training, and post-secondary planning. They also work closely with a program representative who serves as a resource.
How are funds made available?
Once they complete the program requirements, participants can access their funds to pay for tuition, books, and other qualifying expenses related to their ongoing education. Participants decide what to use their money for, fill out a request form, and the MESA program will send payment directly to the educational institution or the vendor – providing a seamless process for the participant, credit union, and school or vendor.
How do I apply?
If you are wondering if a MESA program is right for you, (even if you are not sure if you qualify), follow the three-step process. Since this program is designed to help students of underserved and low-income populations, students must establish that they meet income and asset guidelines AND upload certain documents to verify their eligibility. Make sure you read the information carefully – without the necessary information and documents, applications cannot be considered.
Is MESA right for me?
Your MESA Credit Union program coordinator will help to answer that question. If you are eligible to enroll, then MESA can help you reach your saving goal and make higher education more attainable financially.