A national model
Given the success of Get Checking in central Indiana, Purdue Extension took the program statewide in October 2005. The program is now available from Purdue Extension at county offices throughout the state.
Get Checking was started in 1998 by the University of Wisconsin Extension Service, but Haynes-Bordas was the first to turn the program into a partnership among non-profit agencies, financial institutions and education partners. The Indiana coalition currently has 15 financial partners and 10 non-profit educational partners.
“We're one of the few states where Get Checking is a collaboration,” says Haynes-Bordas, whose work with the program was recognized with a national award from eFunds Corp.
Purdue Extension is now the national model for Get Checking, says Melanie Trausch, consumer outreach manager for eFunds, the company that owns ChexSystems. “There are other financial literacy programs, but there are no other programs that are directly associated with ChexSystems . ”
Banks benefit, too
Elizabeth Kiss, Purdue Extension financial management specialist who coordinates the statewide program, says she's always looking for new financial partners. Misconceptions about the people in ChexSystems is among the biggest hurdles she has to overcome to get financial institutions on board.
“Bankers tend to be pretty conservative,” Kiss says. “But this program is to their benefit. This is a way to give consumers a second chance, collect on bad accounts and gain new customers who have account management skills.” To become a partner, financial institutions pay a one-time contribution and agree to let Get Checking graduates open accounts at their institutions. People who are suspected of checking account fraud cannot be admitted to the program.
Banks are often the first point of contact for participants. “The most common way that we get students is that people go to the bank to open an account and they find out they're in ChexSystems,” Haynes-Bordas says. “If they're lucky, it's a financial institution that's a member of our Get Checking program, and they get handed a brochure.”
Like Woodruff, most people don't know about ChexSystems until they find themselves in it. “These people aren't deadbeats,” Haynes-Bordas says. “They're people who made mistakes. They are fairly well educated and have a fair amount of money. Sometimes people are disgusted that they're there, but by the time they get over that, they don't feel so alone.”
Such is the case with Woodruff. “It made my confidence level just go up. I was very proud—proud because I did it. I was the one who corrected the problem, and it's making me a better person.”