On January 31, the CFPB issued a notice and request for comment about how current and future arrangements between institutions of higher education and financial institutions could be structured “to promote positive financial decision-making among young consumers.” The inquiry also is designed to help the CFPB “develop a clearer picture of the financial products and services that are being offered to college students, as well as consumers’ experiences using those products and services.” Specifically, with regard to campus affinity relationships, the CFPB wants to know, among other things, (i) what types of campus affinity products are being offered to students, what features do they have, how are they being marketed, and what are their terms and conditions, including fees, (ii) what information about students is being provided to the education institution, (iii) the nature and volume of student complaints, (iv) what benefits are education institutions realizing through affinity relationships, and (v) the extent to which these products are bundled with student identification cards. The CFPB also seeks similar information about other financial products marketed to students. The CFPB is seeking comments from various stakeholders, including students, institutions of higher education, and financial institutions by March 18, 2013.
On September 30, the CFPB (or the Bureau) hosted a “Banking on Campus” forum, an event it described as a continuation of its February 2013 request for information about financial products and services marketed to college students. The event featured remarks from government officials, including the CFPB and the U.S. Department of Education, as well as presentations from students, school officials, financial institution representatives, and consumer advocacy groups. Generally, the discussion centered on the potential financial impact of exclusive marketing arrangements between schools and financial service providers on students, particularly with regard to financial aid disbursement products.
Director Cordray provided opening remarks in which he stated the Bureau’s concern that colleges and universities may be encouraging or even requiring students to use financial products that do not offer the best deals, while the schools are “secretly making money” from marketing agreements with financial service providers.
CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman, Rohit Chopra followed with a presentation that summarized the findings from the Bureau’s request for information, which may indicate the direction the CFPB will take in further scrutinizing student banking products and services. According to Mr. Chopra, the CFPB received 162 responses to its request for information and reviewed publicly available information. The Bureau’s initial observations include, among others, that: (i) financial product marketing partnerships have shifted to student checking, debit and prepaid card products (particularly student ID card accounts and financial aid disbursement cards/accounts); (ii) college affinity products generally do not appear to have more attractive features compared to other student checking products; and (iii) marketing arrangements between financial institutions and institutions of higher education for many student banking products are not well understood. Read more…