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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB releases annual college credit card report

Federal Issues CFPB Consumer Finance CARD Act Credit Cards Department of Education

Federal Issues

On October 13, the CFPB released its annual report to Congress on college credit card agreements. The report was prepared pursuant to the CARD Act, which requires card issuers to submit to the CFPB the terms and conditions of any agreements they make with colleges, as well as certain organizations affiliated with colleges. According to the Bureau, the report “raises questions about whether some marketing deals between colleges and financial institutions comply with Department of Education rules.” The report also highlighted the need for transparency in the arrangements schools have with financial institutions. In conjunction with the report, the DOE issued guidance clarifying colleges’ responsibility to ensure that campus financial products are consistent with students’ best financial interests, including by reviewing whether any fees assessed are consistent with or below prevailing market rates. The DOE’s guidance discussed overdraft and NSF fees, given that financial institutions in the general market have increasingly been reducing or eliminating certain fees. The Bureau’s report included data on 11 account providers, including non-bank financial service providers, banks, and credit unions offering more than 650,000 student accounts in partnership with 462 institutions of higher education during the 2020-2021 award year. Key findings of the report include, among other things: (i) financial services providers and their partner schools appear to offer and promote more costly products to students than are otherwise available in the market; (ii) one entity dominates the market for financial aid disbursements, providing nearly 70 percent of the accounts offered in partnership with schools; and (iii) nearly 30 percent of accounts in the Bureau’s sample were subject to arrangements in which the financial services provider made payments to the partner school.