05/10/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Move Our Money: Why Universities Should Join the Movement

How much money do you have in the bank? Whether it's $1,000 or $1 million, those deposits cumulatively have a big impact on the local economy, and even more so if you put them in a local bank or credit union. That's the whole idea behind the Move Your Money campaign: taking your money out of the big banks, and putting into a local bank or credit union, can impact your local economy.

Big banks may take the money that is deposited and lend it to major corporations doing things like mountaintop removal coal mining and use it to make risky investments in derivatives, while at the same time charging high fees on credit cards and making predatory loans to low-income people.

Contrast that with money deposited in a strong local bank or credit union that can be lent out at fair rates to support local businesses and homeowners. These financial institutions are locally controlled, and in the case of credit unions, owned by their depositors, and both have a much stronger incentive to do a good job serving their customers and their community over the long term.

You know where you keep your money, but where do the institutions where you go to school, work and live keep their money? Most of them have accounts with one or more of the major banks. They may also promote their services to you--giving away free t-shirts as they sign up students for credit cards on campus-- as part of this deal.

While you and I have some buying power, universities and other major institutions with lots of money have more.

It's not just that colleges and universities are wealthy and can make an impact. It's also that they're tax-exempt nonprofit institutions with missions that often cite citizenship, virtue, responsibility, diversity, and community as their values. Our schools should uphold their missions in all of their operations, including finance.

Students around the country are starting to push for just that. Schools from Seattle University in Washington, to Macalester College in Minneapolis and Mount Holyoke College in Northampton, Massachusetts, have all moved a portion of their funds into community investments. Some, like Amherst College, have even brought local financial institutions to campus to serve students and faculty instead of a major bank. Other schools can do that too. Just imagine: if your local bank had ATMs on campus, you would probably be more likely to use them.

Students have every right to work with a bank or credit union that values them as community members, not just a number. While we may only be at our schools for four years we can continue to have a positive impact by bringing not only our personal finances, but also our institutions, to bear for the greater good.

For more information, visit