Report: College Students Face High Fees on Banking Products Marketed by Schools They Attend

Advocate Andy

College-bank partnerships are profitable for all parties EXCEPT the students

A new report issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) finds that college students often pay high fees for bank accounts and credit products marketed by the colleges they attend. In fact, the report notes that fees paid on banking products cross-marketed with a college are often higher than fees for the same or similar products on the open market.

The report raises questions about whether some marketing deals between colleges and financial institutions comply with Department of Education rules. The report also highlights a lack of transparency in the arrangements schools have made with financial institutions.

“Many college students trust that schools have their best interests in mind. While colleges have substantial bargaining power to obtain superior terms and pricing for their students, we find that many college-sponsored financial products cost students more than accounts that are readily available on the open market.” said CFPB Director Rohit Chopra. “Today’s report suggests that there is more work to do to ensure that students are not steered into school-endorsed products with junk fees. We will continue to work with the Department of Education to help students find the best possible products.”

Among the key findings of the CFPB investigation:

  • Financial services providers and their partner schools appear to offer and promote more costly products to students than are otherwise available in the market: Students are subject to direct marketing efforts that promote accounts that impose more costs than comparable accounts – even comparable accounts offered by the same financial services provider. Some providers’ agreements with schools allow them charge students five overdraft or NSF penalties, per day, costing $175.
  • One entity dominates the market for financial aid disbursements, providing nearly 70% of the accounts offered in partnership with schools—and imposes surprise monthly fees: Under this provider, accountholders are charged monthly service fees on accounts with less than $300 in qualifying deposits per month, but financial aid disbursements that may comprise the bulk of a student’s deposits do not count as qualifying deposits. Of the $15 million in annual costs paid by students in the CFPB’s sample, nearly $13 million was paid to this provider.
  • Many students are directed to lists of account options that do not appear to meet Department of Education requirements: Under Department of Education regulations, students must be allowed to select the way they receive their financial aid from a neutral list, and cannot be coerced into selecting college-sponsored products under threat that their financial aid disbursements will be delayed if they choose non-sponsored accounts.  The CFPB identified instances where students were told that financial aid payments might not be as timely if students didn’t choose a college-sponsored account.
  • Many agreements between financial institutions and colleges do not appear to be posted prominently as required: Nearly 30% of accounts in the CFPB’s sample were subject to arrangements in which the financial services provider made payments to the partner school. Schools are required to post on their websites the agreements they have with financial services providers, any compensation exchanged between them, and the average costs paid by students. These disclosures help make the terms of the college-bank relationship transparent, but the CFPB’s review found that hundreds of schools did not appear to have posted the disclosures in the public and conspicuous manner required.

Comments / 1

Published by

Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

Nashville, TN

More from Advocate Andy

Comments / 0