High school students here are learning
about money, loans and getting the best interest rates in town
all from their own school-based bank.
Dickinson High School students can cash checks, get change, take
out loans of up to $200 and start savings accounts that pay 4
percent interest annually.
If they need cash, the teens can make transactions on the way to
class with a quick stop in the hallway at a small room, where their
classmates become their bankers.
"It's very convenient," said Teresa Mathew, a 17-year-old
junior, after cashing a check before class. "I think it is
helpful, and people do learn a lot from it, too."
The bank, open to current students and school employees, is run
by students who study banking in a class that lasts half a year.
The course is designed to teach students how to be professional
Carson Svihl, an 18-year-old senior who recently started the
class, finds it harder than he expected, but he likes the
"It's going to be a lot more fun to actually do something in
person rather than reading out of a book," Svihl said.
Elsie Reichert, the banking instructor, said the class enhances
banking knowledge of the school's 1,000 students. Even if they
don't take the class, their patronage is a learning experience,
"Banks are no longer unapproachable to them, which I think they
are for a lot of people still adults included," she said last
Community First National Bank came to the school with the idea
of starting a class to teach students about banking. The high
school bank was created in 1994.
DuWayne Schwindt, the vice president of Community First, said it
seemed like a good idea, considering the number of adults who have
trouble balancing their checkbooks.
"It's a special relationship, and it's an opportunity for
industry and education to partner in educating our youth,"
The student bank has a depository account at Community First,
which pays them a special interest rate to help them make earnings.
Community First also lets the student bank loan money to students
at a better interest rate than they would find elsewhere.
Community First found an interested instructor in Reichert, who
ran the school store before she started teaching banking. The bank
trained her as a teller so she could teach the class. One of her
graduates landed a job at Community First. Others have gone on to
work in other banks.
After starting with $500 in capital from Community First, the
student bank's deposits have grown from zero to about $10,000.
About 30 students have savings accounts of up to $500, and the
bank cashes checks for a 1 percent fee. Check cashing is its most
Students also keep track of credit checks and sometimes even
have to chase down delinquent loans by writing letters to parents,
who must cosign student loans. The bank has about 10 loans out this
The bank has had one bad loan so far, after a student skipped
town. Students went to court and got an outstanding judgment "so
in order for him to get credit anyplace, he's going to have to pay
us," Reichert said.
The bank turns a profit of several hundred dollars a semester,
Reichert said, though profits vary. The students use the money to
take a field trip relating to the industry.
These days, students set interest rates, and they determine fees
for cashing checks. They also take turns working in the bank for 30
minutes before school and at lunch Monday through Friday.
Overall, the student tellers appear to be satisfying their
"Seniors graduating want to continue banking there," Schwindt