The cost of convenience

The opening of a branch of U.S. Bank in Coffman Union really shows how much the union has changed. As a student here from 1993-95, I banked at the University’s Federal Credit Union’s Coffman Union branch. I again have an account there now, but I have to go to the Gateway alumni center on the edge of campus to do my banking.

At first I was annoyed that a private corporation rather than our credit union was the new Coffman Union bank. Credit unions are member-owned and governed, dividend-paying institutions, and membership in the credit union is a privilege offered only to students, faculty, alumni and employees of the University.

But when the budget for Coffman Union’s remodeling was raised by $21.5 million in 2001, $12.5 million was slated to come from the building’s tenants. Reading that U.S. Bank outbid TCF and Wells Fargo for an estimated five-year, $903,000 lease makes me wonder if the University could financially afford to forsake the opportunity.

Heck, if the banking competition heated up to the point where one bank was granted exclusive ATM rights on campus – like Coca-Cola has for pop – that could probably raise another few million dollars. If that money was used for an upfront bond payment to decrease the $91 per year that students will pay until 2021 for the union or to decrease the coming tuition increase, would that be worth it?

The question here is about which businesses the University should offer its space to. Private banks offer greater overall convenience, while credit unions offer member ownership and a higher rate of return. Each has its benefits, but there seems to be room for only one in Coffman Union.

If Coffman Union is supposed to serve the interests of the University community then space should not have been leased to a private, for-profit corporation, while an alternative which is cooperatively owned by and designed to benefit our community gets left out.

At what price is it worth selling an edge in convenience to a private bank, when the expense is not restoring that convenience to our credit union? The going rate seems to be $903,000.

Jason Samuels


history and political science