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February 2014

Cooperatives Give Back
Scholarships Available at Many Cooperatives

One of the crucial differences between your electric cooperative and investor-owned energy companies is the concern for the local community. Your member-owned electric cooperative is unique among the many different types of corporations because it operates under a set of well-established cooperative principles and shares these principles with the more than 860 member-owned cooperatives headquartered in Wisconsin, as well as with many thousands of cooperatives across the globe. Wisconsin’s cooperatives are, in turn, owned by more than 2.9 million state residents. The 7th cooperative principle is “concern for community.” I know from my prior state Consumer Protection work that there is no other type of corporation that shares a common set of principles, particularly principles focusing on giving back to the local community. In fact, I learned during many criminal and civil consumer protection investigations and court cases that a number of corporations have never adopted any governance principles.

Many of Wisconsin’s electric cooperatives actively participate in the Federated Youth Foundation, a foundation Cooperative Network administers that financially supports the education of our future leaders, as well as supports worthy local charities. In 2013, the foundation awarded more than $440,000 in scholarships and charitable contributions, with scholarship awards ranging from $300 to $1,500. Many readers will remember seeing your local electric cooperative advertise the availability of these scholarships in this magazine. Charitable giving included financial support for 4-H, FFA, fire departments, rural hospitals, EMS, rural housing, food pantries, fair park renovations, youth safety programs, Habitat for Humanity, the Boys and Girl Scouts, hospices, and art centers, to name a few of the award recipients.

Since 1970, the foundation has awarded scholarship and charitable contributions of more than $7.6 million. This is an impressive number. By contrast, I know of a very large financial institution with extensive Wisconsin operations that has trumpeted the fact that it gives 1 to 3 student scholarships a year in our state.

Beware Scholarship Scams

If you have a child, grandchild, or know of another person who is intending to seek education beyond high school -- or is already enrolled -- encourage them to contact their local electric cooperative to determine their scholarship eligibility. At the same time, there are many other scholarships that are also often available through local, state and national organizations. The school guidance office is a great place to start for information. However, beware of scholarship scams. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that many students and their parents are scammed every year by thieves marketing scholarship search services. Stay away from companies claiming they can find thousands of dollars in scholarships, but require payment up front. For more information, see: http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0082-scholarship-and-financial-aid-scams. Other thieves say they can help students and parents find low interest loans and grants. The only application that will determine eligibility for all student aid programs is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, otherwise known as FAFSA. This form is free to complete and submit and is on the web at: https://fafsa.ed.gov/.


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