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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

New Rules of Credit to Protect College Students

As students walked through the UL floor of the Campus Center on Monday, February 22, they saw the UMB chapter of MASSPIRG, the Student Senate, Vice-Chancellor Patrick Day, and Undersecretary for the Office of Consumer Affairs Barbara Anthony standing in front of several banners announcing a new day for credit cardholders everywhere in the US via a news conference. On that day, a new set of federal regulations came into effect to protect all American credit cardholders from the predatory practices that have been plaguing the customers of the credit card companies for years. This bill is known as the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 or Credit CARD Act. During the excitement in Washington D.C., during the past year, Congress passed this momentous piece of legislation, on May 22, 2009, with the intension of giving the American people a degree of immunity from the long reach and power of the big credit card companies – whose fees and marketing practices have become increasingly worrisome to the American consumer. The news conference, led by MASSPIRG, was done to highlight the fact that US College students are among the specific groups protected under the provisions of this bill, thanks to the lobbying efforts of MASSPIRG advocates and other grassroots interest groups down in Washington DC. During this particular Monday morning, the MASSPIRG members spent much of their time passing out informative pamphlets to students and faculty passing through Campus Center. At around 10:30am, this press conference started in earnest with a speech by Mr. Emmett Hardiman, the MASSPIRG Project Coordinator, on how the Credit CARD Act has ushered in a new day for college students and credit card customers. “Today, we are here to celebrate new credit card protections for students. Students have been under attack by the credit card industry.  We are aggressively marketed to. For filling out a quick credit card application, you can get free T-shirts and free food like pizza and candy, and even iPods! At many schools, anyone can get a credit card on campus, even if you don’t have any income.” But, Mr. Hardiman emphasized, that is no longer the case with the new Credit CARD Act of 2009. Because this new law will deter, if not prevent, credit card companies from taking advantage of college students and the American consumer. “The CARD Act which goes into effect today changes the marketplace for credit cards on college campuses in three main ways.  First, students are now treated like all adults, in that they need to show an ability to re-pay or have a co-signer to get a card.   Second, credit card marketers won’t be able to force students to fill out an application for a free gift.  And finally, the contracts between banks and colleges that are behind the college affinity cards offered on so many campuses across the country must be publicly disclosed, so we can determine how the bank is interacting with the college financially.” This bill was endorsed in the speech made by Dan McDowell, the Speaker of the Student Senate, following Mr. Hardiman’s opening remarks. “I’m happy to address the issue of college students and credit card debt today.  As you know, the cost of attending college is rising as states are cutting funding for education. Now, not only does the average college graduate carry over $23,000 worth of loan debt at graduation, but the average college grad also carries about $3,000 in credit card debt. We need to decrease the amount of debt that students graduate with. One way to do that is to curb the abusive credit card practices that have been rampant on college campuses.  The new credit card rules that go into place today will help.” The state officials on hand for the press conference also gave their words of approval of the Credit CARD Act. Undersecretary for the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, Barbara Anthony, described the positive impact these new regulations would have for consumers. “Credit card bills and accounts have often been part mystery, part high-level math equation. These new regulations provide much-needed clarity and protection to consumers. Managing money and debt is important to families as the economy rebounds, and these new rules help provide more information that will allow cardholders to make smarter and better choices about spending their money.” In a public statement, Congressman Capuano of Massachusetts expressed his pleasure that Congress had acted to protect students. “For too long, credit card companies have aggressively targeted college students without providing them with sufficient consumer protections or common sense options. The Credit CARD Act empowers students to access credit without leaving them vulnerable to abusive terms and practices.” UMass Boston’s very own Chancellor J. Keith Motley chimed in, on the effects of this Federal legislation, through a press release disseminated by MASSPIRG. “College can be a challenging time for students financially, and many can find themselves vulnerable to unfair credit practices. We need to do everything we can to help our students get on the road to success, so I’m pleased to support MASSPIRG in its effort to clean up the financial marketplace for students by tightening the rules around credit cards. The new rules will result in a better marketplace for students right here on campus.” In the wake of this news conference, UMB students responded positively to the new law and the protections it affords them. “I’ve been swamped with credit card debt during my three years here. It’s heartening to see Congress do something good for once,” said Anna Colbourne, a junior at the College of Liberal Arts. There were also some freshmen who were able to see bits of the conference like Riley Taylor, an out-of-state student, who told the Mass Media, “I just got a new credit card this year and I’m pretty buzzed about this new law. I had no idea that the credit card companies had it in for us.” Overall, most students surveyed, by the Mass Media, found the conference to be informative and a success. The event was also covered by the local news and the Boston Metro, which featured a picture of Emmett Hardiman. For more information about the new Credit CARD Act, visit the MASSPIRG office in Student Life on the 2nd Floor of the Campus Center.

About the Contributor
Dillon Zhou served as opinions editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2010-2011