September 30 2013
A report set to be released later today by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG) highlights how colleges’ cozy relationships with preferred banks hurts students. As the New York Times reports:
“Banks and other financial firms are taking advantage of a variety of opportunities to form partnerships with colleges and universities to provide campus student ID cards and to offer student aid disbursements on debit or prepaid cards,” writes Rich Williams, a higher-education advocate, in the US PIRG report.
He notes these debit and credit cards, which are often known as affinity cards, impress students because they carry the college insignia.
Even students who don’t want these debit cards, US PIRG officials say, often get them. That’s because these cards are often used when students have received more in student aid than they owe in tuition for a quarter, and the difference is provided through a card.
Colleges often receive bonuses from the card companies for allowing them to be the exclusive provider on a campus.
However, students end up “bearing some costs directly — including per-swipe fees, inactivity fees, overdraft fees and more,” according to the study.
No one should be strong-armed into accepting unwanted credit cards—or the murky fees associated with them. But it’s not the federal government’s job to police grown ups.
Consumers have a variety of free, online options for comparing credit cards and other financial services. Abundant regulations governing banks and colleges already exist, and consumers have a host of options for filing complaints.
Yet if students aren’t mature enough to read the fine print and do the math for themselves, it’s worth wondering whether they belong in college in the first place.