News + announcements

ECMC is making a change to our security cyphers

December 18, 2018

Read more >

On December 20, ECMC will no longer be supporting weak security cyphers. If you are experiencing issues when attempting to access our web applications, please check with your technical support team to ensure that you are using TLS 1.2.

Close >

ECMC Group partnered with Junior Achievement to present JA in-a-Day to kindergarteners at Mather Heights Elementary in Mather, CA.

The following video is from NBC Sacramento

December 13, 2018

Read more >

ECMC Group partnered with Junior Achievement to present JA in-a-Day to kindergarteners at Mather Heights Elementary in Mather, CA. The curriculum teaches students the building blocks of financial literacy and connects it to everyday life. Each lesson includes various activities and interactive games to help the kindergarteners begin to understand what it means to make financially smart choices.

Close >

Twin Cities leaders unite for the 2019 Points of Light conference

The following article is from the Business Insurance

December 13, 2018

Read more >

Points of Light announced today that a dynamic group of 38 influential Twin Cities leaders will serve as Host Committee members for the annual Points of Light Conference, to be held June 18-20, 2019, in St. Paul.

The 2019 Points of Light Conference, co-hosted this year with HandsOn Twin Cities, is the world's largest service-related convening, bringing together nonprofit, government, business and civic leaders to gain and share the knowledge, resources and connections needed to galvanize the power of people to create change globally. This year's event will challenge attendees to not only ask "how do we get more people to volunteer to make change," but also "how can we create a society where it is easy for every individual to take action to accelerate change within their community and around the world?"

To meet this challenge, the conference team, along with our content partner the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration (MAVA), who is well-known for providing cutting-edge research and content in volunteer engagement capacity building, is seeking workshop proposals from organizations and subject-matter experts in these specific content areas: Business with Purpose, Disaster Response and Preparedness, Faith, Civic Engagement Innovations from Around the World, Higher Education, Military and Veterans, National Service, Nonprofit Capacity Building, Nonprofit Volunteer Engagement/Service Enterprise, and Social Innovation.

This global event provides the singular opportunity for thousands to come together to collaborate and ensure the social sector continues to grow and innovate in this rapidly changing world. The convening will offer attendees a three-day experience full of carefully curated content and networking opportunities. The opening plenary will take place in the heart of downtown St. Paul and will feature a series of inspirational talks and performances. Sessions, workshops and forums will take place at the St. Paul RiverCentre, an award-winning space with soaring ceilings and natural light, situated on a bluff providing stunning views of the Mississippi River.

"This coming year, Points of Light affiliate HandsOn Twin Cities will celebrate its 100th anniversary as America's first volunteer center – making St. Paul the perfect place to host the 2019 Points of Light Conference," said Natalye Paquin, president and CEO, Points of Light. "In collaboration with our hometown hosts and partners, we are excited to share the history and culture of the region with our conference attendees."

Business and community leaders from across the region will spearhead the conference Host Committee, assisting in developing service opportunities for attendees based on the greatest needs in the surrounding community; and in identifying and cultivating high-quality speakers and engaging attendee experiences. The conversations and content are unique and profoundly relevant because the experience is shaped by local experts, leaders and influencers.

The following individuals will serve as members:

Kelly Acker, Assistant Vice President, Community Relations, U.S. Bank
Kate Barr, President and CEO, Propel Nonprofits
Anna Bosak, Community Affairs Specialist, HB Fuller
Jake Blumberg, Executive Director, GiveMN
Karmit Bulman, Executive Director, Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration
Erika Carter, Communications Director, Bush Foundation
Diana Dalsin, Community Relations Manager, Bridging
Andy Goldman-Gray, Principal, AGG Marketing and Consulting
DeeDee Gorman, Community Relations Specialist, Senior, ECMC Group
Matt Halley, Executive Director, Cookie Cart
Rebecca Morris Hoeft, Chief Brand Officer, Sunrise Banks
Sam Holsen, Community Affairs, Xcel Energy
Stephanie Johnson, Manager, Community Relations, Minnesota Twins Baseball Club; Corporate Volunteer Council – Twin Cities Board President
Kris Kewitsch, Executive Director, Charities Review Council
Katie Knutson, Community Affairs Manager, Thrivent Financial
Heidi Kraemer, Senior Manager, Corporate Citizenship, IBM
Deb Krause, Vice President, Minnesota Health Action Group
Shannon Loecher, Director, Social Responsibility, UnitedHealthcare
Jamie Makepeace, Community Engagement Liaison, Office of Mayor Jacob Frey, Mayor of Minneapolis
Judson McNeil, President, Toro Foundation
Amy Meuers, Chief Executive Officer, National Youth Leadership Council
Jennifer Moe, Corporate Responsibility Manager, Target
Tracy Nielsen, Executive Director, HandsOn Twin Cities
Tiffany Orth, Manager, Make It. MSP., GreaterMSP
Jonathan Palmer, Executive Director, Hallie Q. Brown Community Center
Patty Pannkuk, Senior Vice President, Community Affairs Manager, Wells Fargo
Natalye Paquin, President and CEO, Points of Light
Kate Ritzer, Executive Assistant, Chief Executive Officer, Second Harvest Heartland
Eric Satre, National Account Executive, Visit Saint Paul – Convention & Visitors Bureau
Susan Schuster, Principal Community Relations Consultant, Communications and Social Responsibility, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota
Anne Seaquist, Manager, U.S. Community Initiatives and Global Volunteer Programs, 3M
Rebecca Thomley, President and CEO, Orion Associates
Shannon Toren, Director, Ecolab
Karen Trouba, Senior Vice President, Bank of America
Kasey Tunnell, Guest Services Staff and Volunteer Coordinator, Ordway Theater
Janeen Vogelaar, Director of Marketing & Creative Services, KARE 11
Dominick Washington, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Minneapolis Foundation
Minn Wang, Senior Manager, General Mills
Jamie Yanisch, Global Community Engagement Officer, Boston Scientific

For more on the 2019 Points of Light Conference, visit www.volunteeringandservice.org.

About Points of Lights
Points of Light – the world's largest organization dedicated to volunteer service – mobilizes millions of people to take action that is changing the world. Through affiliates in 250 cities and partnerships with thousands of nonprofits and corporations, Points of Light engages 5 million volunteers in 20 million hours of service each year. We bring the power of people to bear where it's needed most. For more information, go to www.pointsoflight.org.

Close >

Being smart about work-study at college

The following story is from the The Wall Street Journal

December 10, 2018

Read more >

Federal work-study is one of the more commonly misunderstood components of financial aid.

But for eligible students, these part-time jobs can be an opportunity to borrow less for college and to gain responsibility and experience. Here are several points for families to keep in mind about the ins and outs of work-study.

Eligibility
Federal work-study jobs are available at participating schools for full-time or part-time undergraduate, graduate or professional students who demonstrate financial need. In the past few years, more than 3,000 colleges were allocated federal work-study funds, according to the Education Department. Each school sets its own criteria for need and how the money is apportioned.

How and when to apply
To apply for work-study, students need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or Fafsa—the government form for financial-aid consideration—and should answer yes to the question: "Are you interested in being considered for work-study?"

Answering yes won't guarantee a position, but some schools will award work-study only to students who expressly indicate a desire for it. So it is best to say yes if there is any chance the student might want this type of position, says Karen McCarthy, director of policy analysis at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators.

It is important to fill out the Fafsa as soon as possible. Schools that participate in work-study have limited funds to award to eligible students, and some do so on a first-come, first-served-basis. Students who have already submitted a Fafsa for the coming school year should contact their school's financial-aid office if they didn't indicate their preference on the form but want to be considered for work-study opportunities.

Federal work-study isn't guaranteed from year to year, so even students who were awarded this type of aid in the past need to go through the process.

Award particulars
Students who qualify will be notified in their financial-aid-award letter, which most colleges send around the same time as admission-offer letters. The amount offered is typically the maximum that can be earned through work-study for the academic year.

The total a student can receive each year depends on when the student applies for aid, the student's need and the school's funding level. In 2016-17, the average federal work-study award was $1,759, according to Education Department data.

Students don't have to accept an award, but experts recommend doing so unless they are absolutely sure they won't be using it. Students aren't always offered positions they like right away, but if they turn down the award prematurely there is a chance that money will no longer be available later in the year when more desirable opportunities may arise, Ms. McCarthy says.

Also keep in mind that work-study funds aren't distributed upfront to help students pay their tuition bill; students have to work to receive any money.

Finding a work-study job
Each school's work-study process can be different, so students need to make sure they understand their own school's rules.

For example, some schools direct students to a list of jobs, but leave it up to the student to interview and find the right one. Other institutions go a little further and help place the students in jobs, Ms. McCarthy says.

Students can also search for off-campus work-study opportunities, which aren't always as well advertised as on-campus jobs, says Abril Hunt, an outreach manager who focuses on financial literacy for ECMC, a nonprofit that helps students and families plan and pay for college. Also, if a particular job piques a student's interest, the student can always speak to the financial-aid office to see if it can be approved under the work-study program, she says.

How students get paid
Work-study students will be paid at least once a month, and they can arrange to have the money paid directly to them, deposited in their bank or paid to the school on their behalf. Students will earn at least the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour; they may earn more depending on the type of work and the skills required for the position.

Schools set their own rules about how many hours students can work for these jobs. A rule of thumb is 10 to 20 hours a week, but that can vary. Some employers will continue to employ students privately even after they have exceeded their allocated work-study amount, but that depends on the employer.

Tax and financial-aid issues
Students with income levels that require them to file taxes have to report the earnings from their federal work-study on their income taxes. But those earnings don't count against a student when he or she applies for financial aid for the next year.

Close >

7 steps to start paying back your student loans

The following story is from CNBC

November 29, 2018

Read more >

If you've recently graduated and skated through half a year without too much thought about your student loan debt, it's time to pay the piper.

For federal loans, which make up the bulk of student debt, there is generally a six-month grace period after graduation that gives borrowers time to get on their feet before they have to start repaying their loans.

That means graduates are just now facing their first bill. Seven in 10 seniors leave school with debt, owing over $34,000, on average, according to a report by Experian.

"It's easy for new borrowers to put their head in the sand," said Andrew Josuweit, CEO and president of Student Loan Hero, a student-loan management site. "They've never had $30,000 to $40,000 in loan debt before."

And for 63 percent of families, those grads are solely responsible for paying back their college tab, according to education lender Sallie Mae.

If you're concerned about how to tackle those bills and what happens next, here's what you need to know:

Step 1: Know your loans

Many borrowers have several loans, each potentially with a different interest rate, monthly due date and repayment period. That can be confusing.

To that point, the majority of borrowers, 56 percent, don't know the interest rate on their student loans and 59 percent said they didn't know the repayment term, according to a report by Millennial Personal Finance.

"When it comes to paying back loans, starting out on the right foot is critical," said Antoine Oakley, a spokesman for Sallie Mae.

To get there, go to the Department of Education's central database for student aid to get a handle on the terms for your federal student loans. For private loans, call each lender to find out your current balance, monthly payments and when the payment are due. Sites like Student Loan Hero can also provide a dashboard-type overview for borrowers.

By default, you are likely in a 10-year standard repayment plan but there are other options, including pay as you earn or income-based repayment. Ask your lender about what plan best suits you.

"Be aware of what your options are," said Abril Hunt, the outreach manager at Educational Credit Management Corporation, or ECMC, a nonprofit dedicated to helping student borrowers.

Step 2: Update your contact info

Chances are you've moved, taken an extended trip, changed your email address and have a new cellphone. Make sure each lender can reach you.

"It's easy for a loan servicer to lose track of you, and if you're not getting statements you could go into default by accident," said Josuweit of Student Loan Hero.

Step 3: Monitor your cash flow

Take your income minus expenses, including your rent and monthly loan tab, to determine if you can afford your loan payments.

"That can inform decisions about getting a roommate or whether to buy a car," said Sallie Mae's Oakley.

If your budget feels stretched too thin, look into those income-based repayment programs, which allow you to pay a percentage of your income rather than a flat rate, as long as you are under a certain income threshold. Generally, you'll qualify if your federal student loan debt is higher than your annual discretionary income, according to the Education Department.

If you don't have a job yet and your cash flow is negative, consider a deferment or forbearance. A deferment lets you put your loan on hold for up to three years. If you don't qualify for a deferment, a forbearance lets you temporarily suspend payments for up to one year. However, in this case, interest will still accrue.

In each case, borrowers must apply for permission to postpone payments. "If you run into trouble, reach out and communicate with your servicer," Oakley said.

Step 4: Register for autopay

If you can afford your payments, sign up for autopay. An automatic program will decrease your chances of missing a payment and may come with the added perk of a modest interest-rate deduction on your loan.

That will also put you on the right track to building a favorable credit history, Oakley said.

Step 5: Give your tab a one-time cash boost

If you are feeling flush from monetary gifts at graduation or a starting bonus, consider beefing up your first few payments.

An extra payment is one of the best strategies to pay off student loans faster, said ECMC's Hunt. Just make sure extra payments go toward unsubsidized loans first, then toward loans with the highest interest rate.

You should also specify that those extra funds get applied to the principal of the loan and not to future interest payments.

"Paying off student loans is usually a marathon but if you can find opportunities to make it a sprint, take them," Josuweit added.

However, if you are just getting on your feet, don't forgo the chance to build an emergency fund or max out contributions to a 401(k) plan, he said.

Step 6: See if your employer will chip in

More employers now are offering student-loan repayment benefits to their workers, which can help recent grads pay down their debt.

Only 4 percent of U.S. employers provide student-loan repayment perks, according to the Society for Human Resource Management's 2018 Employee Benefits survey, up from 3 percent last year. However, that number is expected to continue to rise.

If you are job hunting, give extra weight to the employers that do offer a student loan assistance program.

Step 7: Consider consolidating or refinancing

Once you have a steady job, a salary and a credit history, call a few lenders or talk to a financial advisor about your options. If you have several different loans, you might consider consolidating them. Or you may be able to refinance at a lower interest rate. You could also choose to extend the terms beyond the standard 10 years to lower your monthly payments, Josuweit said.

But weigh the options first, he cautioned. Consolidating or refinancing to a private loan will forgo the safety nets that come with a federal loan, including income-based repayment programs and loan forgiveness, for those who would qualify.

Additionally, extending the term of the loan means you ultimately will pay more interest on the balance.

Finally, revisit your loan every six months to a year, Josuweit advised. "Changes to your lifestyle will change your income and expenses and that could impact your repayment plan," he said.

And don't get discouraged by slow progress, he added.

"Your best income generating years are still to come, so there is hope — it just takes time and patience," he said.

Close >