Pictured above: Matthew Durst, Rutgers University Student
The staff at First Financial Federal Credit Union had their heartstrings tugged when student Matthew Durst, a current member, shared his story about his determination to receive a student loan to attend Rutgers University this fall. Although Durst received multiple student loan application denials from various financial institutions, he was not about to give up. The First Financial Loan Department suggested to Durst that although his application was initially not approved, that he should send an email on his behalf to have his application re-evaluated. With his continued effort and exceedingly positive financial relationship with First Financial, his application was re-evaluated and approved with the help of First Financial’s President and CEO, Issa Stephan, and Chief Operating Officer, Alice Stevens.
“I knew three years ago it was time for me to establish my own independence with regard to building a credit history of my own. When it came time for me to transfer from the community college and go to Rutgers University, I wanted to be able to apply (on my own) for a student loan to offset the remaining costs of attendance – minus the minimal financial aid that had been awarded to me,” explained Durst.
Durst obtains “light credit” due to his age and student status, which is typically not enough to apply for a student loan independently. Due to the struggling economy, the past five years have been hard for Durst and his family, as his mother was laid off from three jobs in two years. At the time of the loan application – she was employed, but had taken a substantial pay cut, which left her unable to co-sign any of her son’s student loan applications.
Yet, Durst was not about to give up on obtaining a student loan for himself – and after he was initially declined by First Financial, he decided to send the Loan Department an email (as suggested), which explained why he was deserving of a student loan and about his family’s financial situation. Durst’s email reached the desk of Alice Stevens, First Financial’s Chief Operating Officer.
“We know that times are tough financially for many people out there, and that it can be a great challenge financing a college education. Initially, when we reviewed Matthew’s student loan application, his light credit wasn’t enough for us to be able to fund his entire college education – even though we wanted to be able to assist,” said Stevens. “After we received Matthew’s email, we decided to invite Matthew and his mother to our office to hear their story in person and see how we could help this family – after all, isn’t that what the credit union movement is all about?”
Durst and his mother came to First Financial’s Corporate Headquarters in Wall Township in August, and met with both Issa Stephan and Alice Stevens. Durst explained both in his initial email and in person, “I am in my fifth season of working for a catering company where I handle parties and weddings. This entails working 12-plus hour shifts, and in between I work at an Italian family restaurant delivering food, pizza, and servicing customers. I am a dedicated, hardworking person who will continue to work while enrolled full-time in school.”
Taking his email, application, and the face-to-face meeting into careful consideration, First Financial decided to approve Durst for a student loan – even if it meant they had to bend the rules a little. “Matthew’s maturity and commitment to his future were very impressive – and that couldn’t be overlooked,” said Stevens.
“Everyone deserves a second chance and sometimes that second chance can change an individual’s life,” said Issa Stephan, President and CEO. “First Financial stands by our promise to be a long-time financial partner with our members, make a difference in our members’ lives, and put member needs first to provide a trustworthy and value added solution, and we felt we needed to do the same for Matthew to help him achieve his important goal of receiving a college education.”
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