Biden Administration Proposes Rule to Safeguard Students: No More Fees on College-Sponsored Deposit Accounts


In a significant move aimed at alleviating financial burdens on college students, the Biden administration is set to unveil an updated regulatory proposal that prevents banks from charging fees to students who open college-sponsored deposit accounts.

This initiative comes as a response to concerns raised by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which found that such accounts often impose fees not encountered in other banking arrangements. With an estimated $15.7 million in fees paid by students with college-sponsored accounts during the 2021-22 award year, the proposal seeks to protect students from unnecessary financial strain.

Biden Administration Proposes Rule to Safeguard Students: No More Fees on College-Sponsored Deposit Accounts
(Photo : Pexels / Karolina Grabowska)

Current Challenges Faced by Students

Colleges and universities frequently collaborate with banks to distribute financial aid to students, offering prepaid credit cards or bank accounts as conduits for these funds. However, the CFPB's investigations revealed various fees associated with these accounts that disproportionately affect students. One such fee is the "sunset fee," charged by some banks when students graduate or leave an institution. The updated proposal aims to prohibit such fees, fostering a more equitable financial environment for students.

Additionally, the CFPB discovered that certain banks impose monthly service fees on accounts with less than $300 in qualifying deposits, excluding financial aid deposits from the calculation. Under the new proposal, this practice would be eliminated, ensuring that institutions managing these accounts cannot differentiate between federal financial aid and other funds when assessing fees. To further safeguard students, colleges must adhere to the CFPB's Safe Student Account model, which outlines permissible fees for such accounts.

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Financial Aid and Unnecessary Fees

The proposed regulatory changes highlight the Biden administration's commitment to addressing what some critics have termed "junk fees." Mike Pierce, the executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center and a former CFPB official, emphasized that Education Secretary Miguel Cardona's support for the updated proposal signifies a united front against these burdensome fees.

Pierce stated, "This is great news for college students across the country. As schools have grown reliant on banks to run their financial aid machinery, they have greased the gears with junk fees paid by their own students. Today is the beginning of the end for bad back-room deals between banks and colleges."

Impact on Students and Educational Institutions

The proposed regulatory changes aim to bring about tangible benefits for students facing financial challenges during their academic journey. By eliminating fees for insufficient funds and prohibiting practices that disproportionately burden students, the administration seeks to create a fairer financial landscape within educational institutions.

Colleges and universities, as key stakeholders in this financial aid distribution process, will need to adjust their practices to align with the updated regulatory framework. The proposal ensures that educational institutions follow the CFPB's guidelines, promoting transparency and fairness in financial dealings with banks. This move may lead to a more cautious approach by colleges when choosing financial partners, prioritizing those that adhere to the proposed regulations and prioritize students' financial well-being.

Review and Implementation

An advisory committee is scheduled to review the proposal, along with other updates to rules for state authorization and accreditation, in a four-day negotiating session. This session marks the second of three monthly meetings, underscoring the importance and urgency attached to these regulatory changes.

As the proposal undergoes scrutiny, it is likely to face discussions and debates regarding its potential implications on the banking industry, colleges, and students. Striking a balance between providing necessary financial services and protecting students from unnecessary fees will be at the forefront of these deliberations.

The Biden administration's updated regulatory proposal represents a crucial step towards relieving the financial burdens faced by college students. By targeting fees associated with college-sponsored deposit accounts, the proposal aims to create a fairer financial environment for students pursuing higher education. As the advisory committee reviews and discusses these regulatory changes, the outcome will not only impact students but also reshape the dynamics of financial partnerships between educational institutions and banks. The proposed measures signal a commitment to fostering transparency, fairness, and financial well-being within the realm of higher education.

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