OU Credit Union fuels study abroad dreams for generations to come

Laurel Kraus, Life Editor

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About 200 students each year take advantage of one of the nearly 300 study abroad programs that Oakland University offers in over 40 different countries, from the summer archaeology program in Israel that has been running for the past 10 years to the Italian program, just about to begin its first year.

The Oakland University Credit Union is gifting $1 million toward scholarships for international education students which will become available to receive as early as the summer and fall semesters of 2018.

“The gift, to us, is to strengthen the partnership between the credit union and the university,” OUCU President and CEO April Clobes said. “Our goal at the credit union is to create financial security for our members and help them achieve their dreams.”

The Credit Union, which has been serving OU since 1958, plans to invest $200,000 a year over a five year period into an endowment.

“It’s held as an endowment which means the original investment will stay a part of Oakland University’s endowment and then the interests earned on that investment will be used entirely for study abroad and international education scholarships,” said Alex Zimmerman, director of International Education at OU.

This means that at first the interest will likely provide five or six thousand dollars in scholarships, but when the endowment is fully funded in about five years, it will pay about 4.5 percent, or $45,000, a year.

“This will give students the ability, long past all of our time, to be able to continue to have this experience available to them through a scholarship,” Clobes said.

When students register for study abroad programs, the scholarship application is automatically added to the account to be filled out electronically and will then be awarded based on both merit and financial-need.

“We want to make international education as accessible as possible to everybody here,” Zimmerman said. “It is an added expense of course and things like plane tickets are expensive, so we want to give every opportunity to all of our students, not just those who have the most resources.”

These scholarships hold the potential to greatly increase the number of OU students who participate in international education.

“I think the largest hurdle that most of our students face is financial and gifts like this really go a long way to making study abroad more affordable and more accessible,” Zimmerman said. “Being able to award deserving students scholarships like this will certainly increase our numbers greatly.”

OUCU contributes largely to the university in other ways as well such as giving each dean at OU a $2,500 gift to give to a student of their choice within the program each year and being the title sponsor for the new School of Music, Theatre and Dance.

They chose to put this gift toward international education for a very specific reason.

“International experiences, study abroad, are increasingly important in a workplace environment,” Clobes said. “So having the opportunity for OU students to attend study abroad [and] to be immersed in other cultures and other experiences, helps the students become more competitive for employment after graduation.”