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N.Y. colleges to protect students on credit cards

By Ben Rooney, staff reporter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The 64-campus State University of New York (SUNY) system, one of the largest state systems in the nation, adopted a set of reforms on Tuesday aimed at protecting students from deceptive credit card practices.

The reforms, developed by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, stem from an ongoing investigation into credit card marketing on college campuses. The statewide investigation has revealed "troubling practices" that have contributed to the "crushing credit card debt" faced by many students, according to a statement from Cuomo's office.

"In these difficult economic times, college students are acquiring enormous credit card debt that may burden them for decades to come," Cuomo - the Democrats' candidate for governor this fall - said in a statement. "To make matters worse, they are being targeted by credit card companies at their colleges."

Under the reforms, SUNY will not share students' personal information with credit card companies unless the school has obtained students' prior authorization. It will also offer financial literacy programs to educate students on student loans, credit cards, and other commonly used financial products.

The reforms, which Cuomo has urged all New York colleges and universities to adopt, prohibit schools from earning a percentage of finance charges imposed on students by credit card companies.

In addition, schools that agree to the reforms must monitor all credit card offers promoted on campus and all marketing must be limited to "appropriate times and locations." If a school decides to enter an exclusive agreement with a credit card company, it must select a credit card based on the best interests of students.

The average college student graduates with nearly $4,100 in credit card debt, according to a 2009 survey conducted by student lender Sallie Mae. The survey also showed that 84% of undergraduates had at least one credit card last year, up from 76% in 2004.

Cuomo's office said some students have been forced to drop out of school and seek full-time employment because of "overwhelming" levels of debt.

In addition, high-interest credit card debt can hurt a graduate's jobs prospects, Cuomo said, since many employers check applicants' credit scores before hiring.

"Crippling debt at an early age can devastate a person's academic career, credit worthiness, future job and partner prospects, as well as mental health," Robert Manning, author of Credit Card Nation, said in a statement.  To top of page

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