MESA

The Matched Education Savings Account (MESA) program strives to help hardworking students with limited income save for college expenses by providing $3 in matched funds for every $1 the student saves – turning $500 of savings into a total of $2,000! These matched funds are made possible through federal grants and funding from the Northwest Credit Union Foundation.

While establishing this savings behavior, participants gain access to financial literacy curriculum online which teaches skills like budgeting and spending, using checking and savings accounts, as well as understanding credit and credit reports. Since the platform is all online, students can complete it on their personal time.

The MESA program is dedicated to helping underserved and low-income populations; therefore, in order to be a part of the MESA program, the individual or family must meet certain income and asset guidelines. Check out the Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about these requirements. If you meet the eligibility requirements and would like to save for post-secondary education and/or training, then participating in the MESA program could be an ideal way to reach your goal.

MESA Benefits:

  • 3:1 match – stretch your savings further!
  • Build savings habits while learning life-long money management skills
  • Get closer to achieving your dreams of higher education and financial stability
  • Become a part of a growing Credit Union that’s always In Your Corner!

Contact us today or click here to get started!

*APY = Annual Percentage Yield.

Maximum match amount $1,500. Must make monthly savings deposits of at least $25 for at least six months. Restrictions apply – see MESA Frequently Asked Questions for details.

APY* RATE MINIMUM TO OPEN
.10% .1000% $25.00

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a “MESA”?
What is a “savings match”?
Where are savings deposited?
What is required of MESA participants?
Who is eligible to participate?
Is there more to a MESA program than just savings matches?
What asset purchases are allowed under the Northwest MESA Program?
How do participants receive match funds and purchase their asset goal?
Is the MESA Program right for me?
How will savings in a MESA affect financial aid?
How will matched money in a MESA affect financial aid?

What is a “MESA”?

A Matched Education Savings Account (MESA), also known as an Individual Development Account (IDA), is a special matched savings account for people with lower incomes. These accounts are designed to help families and individuals of modest means establish a pattern of regular saving and, ultimately, purchase a “productive asset.” A “productive asset” is something of value that is likely to return substantial long-term benefits to its owner. While your paycheck helps you to buy food and clothing and pay your bills each month, an asset provides financial security for the future.

Typically, IDA savings and match money can be used to buy a house, pay for education, or start a small business. Most IDA programs focus on a particular type of asset, like education or home ownership. The Northwest MESA Program is dedicated to helping participants save for post-secondary education at a Washington, Oregon or Idaho school.

What is a “savings match”?

A “savings match” is a promise to supplement a MESA or IDA participant’s savings deposit at a specific rate. The Northwest MESA Program will offer a 3:1 savings match, meaning that for every dollar a participant saves as part of the program, he or she will be eligible to receive another three dollars. So if you save $500 throughout the course of the program and meet all the other program requirements, you will be eligible for $1,500 match to purchase the agreed upon asset. The maximum match that the participant will be eligible to receive is $1,500. So to take full advantage of the program, participants should save $500 which will allow for $1,500 match at the end of the program.

Where are savings deposited?

Usually savings are deposited in local community credit unions or banks. In the Northwest MESA Program deposits will be made in one of our partner credit unions. The participant MESA is a restricted account owned by the individual participant: no withdrawals are made from the MESA without written consent of both the participant and MESA Program Manager. The MESA Program participant deposits will earn interest at the rate in effect for non-MESA Credit Union accounts and will have all monthly service charges or fees waived.

What is required of MESA participants?

MESA participants agree to:

  • Make monthly savings deposits of at least $25.00 for at least 6 months.
  • Participate in personal money management training.

Who is eligible to participate?

The MESA program is dedicated to helping underserved and low-income populations and each program has its own individual eligibility requirements. In order to be a part of the Northwest MESA Program the individual or family must:

1) Have an annual household income at or below 200% of Federal Poverty levels or income at or below the Earned Income Tax Credit threshold. (The federal poverty guidelines are calculated by the number of people in your household, and your annual income.)

AND

2) Do not have household net worth exceeding $10,000. (In determining net worth, the primary dwelling and one motor vehicle owned by a member of the household will be excluded.)

AND

3) The applicant must have earned income

AND

4) The applicant must be a Washington, Oregon or Idaho resident enrolled at one of the participating schools.

Is there more to a MESA program than just savings matches?

Absolutely. The main goal of the MESA program is to provide each participant with a set of tools that will enable them to make well-informed choices and continue to build their assets long after the program ends. In order to achieve this, financial education is provided to help participants acquire or polish the personal and financial skills that are essential for long term success, including skills like budgeting/spending plans, working with checking and savings accounts, understanding credit and credit reports, and avoiding fringe banking services and predatory lending. Participants, who receive financial education and counseling as part of the program, have a far better chance for long-term success. For this reason, financial education training is a mandatory part of the program.

What asset purchases are allowed under the Northwest MESA Program?

The purpose of the MESA Program is to help participants save to meet the costs of obtaining education and resources that can lead to the future success of all participants. All purchases must be a part of the participant’s stated goals and approved by the NW MESA Program partners. Participants may use the money in their MESA to pay for tuition and fees, books, supplies, and equipment required for courses at qualifying schools. Matched funding may not be used to pay towards student loans or housing.

How do participants receive match funds and purchase their asset goal?

Matched funds will be made available when the participant is ready to purchase their asset goal based on both their savings and completion of all other program requirements. At that time a vendor check will be issued directly to the school where the participant is enrolled as a student.

When the participant is ready to have a check issued from their MESA savings and match, they must fill out a Qualified Withdrawal Request form, submit an invoice from the vendor or institution and submit it to the Credit Unions Coordinator for the MESA program. Once the request is approved, the participating credit union will write a check from the participant’s Matched Education Savings Account directly to the vendor or institution from which the asset is being purchased. The MESA savings and match will never be given directly to the participant. If paying for tuition, you must present a copy of an outstanding tuition bill. It is your responsibility to time your withdrawal request before your financial aid goes through. Allow 10 days for the check to be issued for the vendor or institution.

Is the MESA Program right for me?

This is a question that you can determine by completing the online pre-application. If you meet the eligibility requirements and would like to save for post-secondary education and/or training then participating in the MESA Program could be an ideal way to reach your goal. Each person and situation is different so take time to ask questions and learn as much as you can about the program. A representative from the MESA Program will be happy to help you determine whether it is an appropriate program for your own asset goals and whether you are eligible based on income requirements.

How will savings in a MESA affect financial aid?

The savings in a MESA is considered a protected asset, which means according to Assets for Independence legislation (SEC. 415. No Reduction in Benefits), the AFI MESA savings account is exempt as an asset for determination of entitlement grants such as Pell and state funds. The saved portion of the MESA is excluded from being counted as an asset when determining the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC). Since the saved money does not affect the EFC, then the saved money will have no effect on the student’s access to financial aid.

How will matched money in a MESA affect financial aid?

The savings in a Matched Education Savings Account is excluded from being counted as an asset when determining Estimated Family Contribution. However, the matched money that the participant earns will most likely be considered an outside resource. Financial aid offices should treat the matched money as they treat any other outside scholarship; it should help decrease the amount of loans the participant needs to take out and would then decrease the amount of campus-based aid such as work study, Perkins loans and other institutional grants and loans. Generally, these institutions do not penalize low-income individuals for saving and accessing outside grant resources, as it is counter to their philosophy of access. In a few extreme cases where MESA savers also had an extraordinary amount of other outside scholarships resources, federal work study and loan aid was decreased. In these cases, as with other scholarship funds, MESAs helped the low-income students cover school costs with less debt and work obligations.

For more information on the Northwest MESA Program, visit www.NWMESA.coop.

The Northwest MESA Programs are collaborative project between the Northwest Credit Union Association, Northwest Credit Union Foundation, Montana’s Credit Unions, and the US Department of Health and Human Services through the Assets for Independence program. Additional program partners include Washington, Oregon and Idaho credit unions.