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CFPB meets with Affinity on home turf
ST. PAUL, Minn. (10/31/11)--Members of the senior management team and board of directors of Affinity Plus FCU, St. Paul, Minn., met face to face with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau leaders Wednesday in Minneapolis.

The Affinity Plus team met with Raj Date, special advisor to the secretary of the treasury for the CFPB and, Elizabeth Vale, the bureau's assistant director for community banks and credit unions. Date and Vale were in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for a town hall meeting and to discuss the bureau's new student lending initiative.

With its "Know Before You Owe" student loan project, the CFPB is helping the Department of Education gather feedback to improve the way schools communicate financial aid offers to students. As part of that project, the bureau has released a one-page "financial aid shopping sheet," a model disclosure form that colleges and universities could use to make the costs and risks of student loans clear  and before students enroll.

Date and Vale met with the Affinity Plus team for about an hour and twenty minutes, Affinity Plus President/CEO Kyle Markland told News Now.

"They wanted to meet with a community financial institution that was involved in students lending mortgage lending and consumer education," Markland said. "Those are all areas we emphasis in building relationships with our members."

Affinity Plus FCU was one of the founders of Credit Union Student Choice, a credit union service organization that offers private student lending. The credit union also has six branches on college campuses, Markland said.

Among the additional products Affinity Plus offers is a Free2BU computer loan that allows students to lower their rate by 2% if they maintain a B average.

The credit union's Fresh Start home loan program combines mortgage lending and consumer education. Members receive a traditional 30-year mortgage with the first 12 months of interest free. As a result, members make payments that reduce their principal balance, allowing them to to build equity. When members enter into the 13th month, they transition into a fixed rate at 1% over the current market rate. During this time the member will create a budget and hold monthly meetings with a credit union representative to help them get back on track.

"We hear a lot of complaints from consumers who are current with their mortgages, but banks won't work with them," Markland said. "This is one of the ways we've responded to that need."

Date and Vale were "impressed and inquisitive" about  the Affinity Plus initatives, Markland said.

Following the meeting, Markland attended the CFPB town hall meeting, which included an open mic session where consumers spoke about negative experiences working with both traditional and nontraditional financial institutions.

These are good, honest people and something bad happened to them, but nobody's there to help them," Markland said. "It was a very sad portion of the night, but it was very eye opening. What you hear about is only the tip of the iceberg."


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