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New York Times
Andrew Martin

In a report released on Wednesday, the group, the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, found that nearly 900 colleges and universities have card partnerships with financial institutions; in some instances, the colleges receive hefty payments from banks for the exclusive access to students; in other instances, the schools save money by outsourcing financial functions to banks or other vendors.

“Campus debit cards are wolves in sheep’s clothing,” Rich Williams, higher education advocate for U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and lead author of the report, said in releasing the report. “Students think they can access their dollars freely, but instead their aid is being eaten up in fees.”

Mr. Williams, the report’s author, said some of the deals may, in fact, be good for universities and students but too many lack transparency. The group released a similar report several years ago about credit card marketing on campus, before Congress curbed many of the worst abuses.

Many of the same tactics are now being used by financial institutions to peddle debit cards: using university logos to market products, setting up tables at orientation, even giving free sweatshirts for students who sign up.

“It’s almost the same exact tricks — but it’s totally legal,” he said.

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