Financial services help students by giving low-interest emergency loans

Ed Swaray

University alumna Emilia Dibaki withdrew twice from her studies at the University because of dire financial difficulties.

“My bills were overwhelming,” she said. “And I always wished I knew a place where I could borrow money, even with minimal interest.”

Today, Dibaki, who holds a master’s degree in international management, owns and operates the business she always dreamed about.

Established in 2002, NED Financial Services is one of few area businesses that provide financial assistance to students in urgent financial need, Dibaki said.

The University also provides such services, said Carl Friedrich, assistant director of the Student Emergency Loan Fund.

Payday or paycheck advances and Western Union money transfers are two of the company’s most popular student services, Dibaki said.

It also offers other general assistance, including mortgage loans.

Students wanting to borrow money have to fill out a form, provide proof of employment or bring a guarantor – usually someone Dibaki has done business with before.

A finance charge and an administrative fee are added to the amount borrowed, which must be paid within 14 days, Dibaki said.

She said a 5 percent late fee is charged on loan amounts.

“Even though I want to help students, I also try to minimize the risk,” she said.

More than 20 students from various universities, including Hamline and Mankato State Universities, take advantage of the services, Dibaki said.

“If there was a place like this to help me pay my rent, buy my books or even grocery,

I wouldn’t have withdrawn from school,” she said.

David Menyah, who sends money to family in Kenya monthly, said having Western Union service nearby means he does not have to commute far to remit money.

Menyah, a geography graduate student, said he has benefited from Dibaki’s advice since he arrived in the United States two years ago.

Dibaki, who is originally from Cameroon, said she did not have a mentor when she attended college in the 1980s.

“I like to give foreign students advice about how to succeed as a student in the United States,” she said. “I have been there and I know what it is like.”

But, she said, her business is open to foreign and nonforeign students.

Another student, Bona Chinanga, said now he does not have to worry when his financial aid is delayed.

“I can always go to Emilia and get cash to buy my books when my money is late,” he said.

He said Dibaki does not conduct rigorous credit checks like other businesses.

“But you just have to be responsible and pay her money back,” Chinanga said.

Dibaki said she usually begins with a minimum of $50 for first-time borrowers.

The amount could increase up to $300 as the borrower proves more credible, she said.

At the University, students can borrow up to $600 from the Student Emergency Loan Fund, a nonprofit, student-run organization. Students must pay back the amount within 120 days at an 8 percent interest rate. A $10 administrative fee is also added to the amount borrowed, Friedrich said.

Applicants must be University students, meet basic credit requirements and have a source of verifiable income, he said.

Approximately 65 to 70 percent of students who apply for a loan qualify for it, he said. Approximately 300 students receive the assistance each year.

He said the office, established 13 years ago, is financed by Student Services Fees, loan fees and interest accrued from money borrowed.

“We are here to help students and I hope they will take advantage of our service,” he said.