Bantry Credit Union has more than halved the interest it charges on education loans, from seven to three per cent.
According to the credit union, this is the lowest interest rate charged on education or student loans by any financial institution in the country.
Explaining the decision, Chairperson of Bantry Credit Union Eddie Mullins said: “The Board of Directors carefully considered this matter over the past nine months. We were frustrated at not being able to pay a dividend to members for the past two years, for reasons beyond our control. We wanted to give something back to our community in place of the dividend.”
Eddie continued: “We decided that investing in the education of our young people by reducing as much as we could the interest we charge on education loans was an appropriate way to do this.”
The timing of the initiative is particularly appropriate, Eddie says, pointing out that 2022 is the 20th year of Bantry Credit Union’s highly regarded annual Third-Level Education Scholarship Scheme. “We also wanted to mark this milestone year for our scholarship scheme. Investing in the education of the next generation by greatly reducing the cost of education loans seems a very good way to do this.”
The scholarship was introduced in 2003 to mark the opening of the credit union’s new office at Wolfe Tone Square. Since then 19 local students have benefited from the scheme, receiving up to €6,000 over four years. That’s up to €114,000 invested in the education of local young people over the past 19 years. This year’s winner therefore will be the 20th recipient of the scholarship.
With two great stories to tell – the massive reduction in the interest rate on education loans and the 20th anniversary of the scholarship scheme – the credit union turned its mind to how best to promote these stories.
Bantry Credit Union Manager Finbarr O’Shea said the credit union has always emphasised that it is a community-based, locally-owned, locally-run and locally-staffed financial services provider. Finbarr said they wanted to capture this emphasis in the promotion and awareness campaign for both the education loan offering and the scholarship scheme. “What better way to do this than to ask the most recent winner of the scholarship to be the face of our campaign?”
Ellie Horgan from Letterlickey, Bantry, was awarded the scholarship in 2021. Now studying Medicine at UCC, Ellie is a great role model for today’s young people – though she is far too modest to agree! She combines her third-level studies with voluntary involvement in a range of community and social organisations.
Ellie is on the Youth Advisory Council for Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. She also volunteers with ALONE Ireland and is a volunteer crisis counsellor with Crisis Text Line 50808. And Ellie still finds time to work part time as a healthcare assistant.
When asked why she was willing to be associated with the credit union’s promotion campaign, Ellie said: “My immediate reaction was Yes. I know how important the credit union is to our locality and I am more than happy to support that in any way I can.”
Ellie explained: “The support that Bantry Credit Union provides through the scholarship and now their new education loan cannot be overstated. It allows young people a chance to pursue their dreams and aspirations by accessing finance in an accessible and friendly way through local faces they already know. I am hugely proud to be associated not only with the scholarship and the new education loan, but also with the credit union and with our whole community as they come together to support our young people. I believe that it says a lot about Bantry and our community that our credit union is able to offer the lowest rate on education loans in the country, and I could not be more proud of that.”
Welcoming Ellie’s involvement as the face of the campaign, Chairperson Eddie Mullins said “We are delighted. Ellie is local. She is one of our own. She represents everything that is good and positive about today’s young generation. And, we believe, the credit union.”
The credit union is already taking applications for its new low-rate education loan. Application Forms for the scholarship are available since September 1.