Hooray for Illinois: A Leader In Protecting Students

The State of Illinois became the latest to protect college students from the marketing ploys of credit card companies. Governor Pat Quinn signed into law restrictions that ban the “free” T-shirts and other goodies credit card companies give in exchange for a completed student application. The new law also prevents colleges from selling information about students under the age of 21.

What? You didn’t know that colleges routinely sell student information? It’s quite a common practice, so much so that other states, including Connecticut have enacted similar laws against it. According to BusinessWeek, the student information at The University of Michigan was worth $25.5 million per year because the school allegedly receives 0.5% of total purchases charged on the school-branded cards. I don’t know about you, but I’m just not comfortable with that.

Should colleges actually be promoting unsecured debt?

Personally, I don’t think so. Since the average student in Illinois graduates with four credit cards and $4,100 in credit card debt (up 44% since 2004), the State of Illinois doesn’t think so either. It isn’t enough that tuition has risen at twice the rate of inflation for years on end, now universities and colleges are in an alliance with the credit card companies to make even more money.

I recently spent a few days at my old alma mater and was amazed at how the campus has changed in the last 20 years. There are new building galore, all amazingly well landscaped and manicured, with walking paths, and mature oaks brought in to make it look as if things had always been this way.

Some colleges may be double dipping. According to Sallie Mae, approximately 30 percent of all students charge a portion of their tuition. If they’re using a school-branded card, the school is making another one half percent!

What’s the solution?

The new Federal Credit Card Law will be a big help to curb some of the abuses, but the best thing you and I can do is to call, write, and email our state legislators and tell them to pass legislation similar to that passed in Illinois and Connecticut.

Those students will thank us later.

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