The State University of New York system Tuesday became the first educational institution in the state to sign on to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's campaign aimed at protecting students from predatory marketing tactics by credit card companies.
At a signing ceremony at SUNY Old Westbury's campus, Cuomo told a room of several hundred students and educators: "Before you just sign up and get a credit card, we want to make sure you're informed, and we certainly want to make sure you're not being a victim of a fraud."
The plan, to be instituted at SUNY's 64 campuses, which have 465,000 students in total, includes bans on schools sharing students' personal data with credit card companies without permission and offering financial literacy classes and limiting marketing credit cards on campus.
It also includes a ban on schools entering into deals with credit card companies in which the school gets a portion of finance fees students pay the banks. Instead, schools must compare bids and enter into an agreement with a company only if it's in the students' best interest.
"Most of our campuses were already doing a lot of these things," said SUNY spokesman David Belsky. None of the three SUNY Long Island campuses have contracts with credit card issuers, he said.
The deal with SUNY comes after Cuomo's high-profile investigation of the student loan industry where he found, in 2007, improprieties by major public and private universities. After he criticized some of them publicly, colleges quickly agreed to settlements with his office, and later the State Legislature passed a landmark law increasing loan protections for students.
Last week, the attorney general's office sent out letters to nearly 300 colleges and universities in the state requesting information about their policies as part of an investigation into credit card marketing that targets college students.
A 2009 federal law already prohibits credit card companies from offering incentives such as food or free T-shirts on campuses to entice students to sign up for credit, and requires a co-signer for borrowers under 21 who do not have their own sources of income.
Karen Klugh, a spokeswoman for the American Financial Services Association, an industry group representing credit card companies and other financial institutions, said her group supports some of the initiatives, including financial literacy classes.
She had no immediate comment Tuesday on the initiatives targeting relationships between colleges and credit card companies, nor the amount of business credit card companies get by marketing to college students.
Hofstra University generally does not allow credit-card companies to solicit on campus, and Adelphi University restricts such companies from marketing on campus as well, according to school representatives.
Cheyenne Boscoe, a 18-year-old freshman at SUNY-Old Westbury who attended Tuesday's event, said she was surprised at what she learned about schools that make deals with financial institutions. "That's pretty messed up," said Boscoe, who does not plan on getting a credit card. "So you're sending us to other banks so we can sign up so you can get money in return? That was news to me."
The SUNY system has agreed to adopt state AG Andrew Cuomo's student credit card reforms.
THE AGREEMENT CALLS FOR SCHOOLS TO:
Offer financial literacy classes to students on credit cards, loans and other financial products.
Not share personal information about students with credit card companies without authorization.
Consider students' best interests when contracting with credit card companies.
Limit and monitor on-campus marketing by credit card companies.
Not enter into contracts with credit card companies in which schools receive a cut of the finance charges students pay. The school must refuse such payment if it already has this type of agreement.
TIPS FOR STUDENTS:
Carefully read the credit card contract before you sign, and pay close attention to the interest rate.
Don't go with cards with high interest rates and fees.
Don't apply for a card just because it's branded with your school's name.
Pay off the balance every month, and make your payments on time.
Source: NY Attorney General's Office