Since the fall of 2009, HLS students have been involved in supporting various for-profit and nonprofit entities in Mississippi focused on improving access to affordable, responsible financial services. Students have worked with the Institute for Community Based Research (ICBR) at Delta State University to develop a guide to community financial services for students at Delta State and for staff members of local nonprofits. In addition, students have worked with Southern Bancorp, the largest rural development bank in the country to support various community development activities, including free tax assistance and promoting historic preservation. In spring 2011, the financial services team worked with the Mississippi Center for Justice to develop consumer education materials on payday lending and the Dodd-Frank Act. The team spent most of the 2011-2012 school year working with the Delta Regional Authority, the Small Business Administration, and ACCION USA as they started a new microfinance initiative in the Delta region. The work consisted of legal and regulatory research, policy research, and interviewing key stakeholders at banks and other organizations throughout the Delta.
In the fall of 2012, students developed legislation meant to facilitate the growth of microfinance and microlending in the Mississippi Delta region, with a focus on Arkansas. Work included research regarding regulatory obstacles and potential economic development programs as well as policy analysis to support the legislation. The team worked with local stakeholders in developing their recommendations.
In the spring of 2013, students working on the financial services team are helping to develop policy meant to facilitate the funding of microfinance and microlending in Arkansas based on the legislation the team wrote last semester. Work includes research and policy analysis to support legislation intended to establish a revolving loan fund for microfinance institutions. The team is working with local stakeholders, including mirofinance institutions and government organizations, in developing their recommendations.