Good morning. I would like to thank each of you for the work you are doing to help young people establish a healthy financial foundation.
Earning a college degree has become increasingly important to personal and professional success in life. Yet we know it also can impose long-term burdens that borrowers struggle to manage. Today, outstanding student debt in this country has topped a trillion dollars, making it the second largest source of debt behind mortgages. Before taking out loans to finance their education, our young people must be better equipped to make smart decisions about managing college costs.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has worked to help students and families make better choices about financing higher education. We partnered with the Department of Education to create a financial aid shopping sheet, which is now being used by more than 2,000 colleges. The shopping sheet is a model financial aid offer letter. This simple document provides students and their families with a personalized depiction of the total costs they will incur if they decide to attend that particular school. It clearly explains the differences between grants and loans and provides information about graduation rates and default rates. This information enables families to make apples-to-apples comparisons between financial aid offers at different schools before making this key financial decision.
Building on this work, we released Paying for College, which is a suite of web tools designed to help young people and their families assess the costs and risks of financing their education in terms that are straightforward and easy to understand. The tools will also help answer important questions such as: “What will be my monthly debt payment at graduation?” Or “What are my rights and options for repaying these loans over time?” This guidance will help people manage these issues more effectively.
Moreover, we all know that the costs of higher education are not limited to just student loans. Another important issue for young people is how best to manage their money while they are still in school. They may be managing money on their own for the first time, and they can be very attractive prospects for financial providers seeking new customers. How students manage their money while they are still in school can have a lasting impact on their financial wellbeing.
As public funding for higher education has been cut, some schools have found new sources of revenue in partnerships with financial institutions. Colleges have made deals to promote credit, debit, or prepaid cards in exchange for a cut of the revenue. Products are sometimes endorsed with the college logo or linked to a student ID card, and the financial institutions may get exclusive access to a new group of potential customers.
We are working to help colleges and universities partner responsibly with financial institutions that offer checking and prepaid accounts and we believe they should help students get the best deal. So we recently released a model “Safe Student Account Scorecard.” This Scorecard is designed to assist colleges in seeking accurate information about fees, features, and sales tactics from financial institutions before they enter into sponsorship arrangements.
We have asked for feedback on the Scorecard from the public, including students, colleges, and financial institutions, to help us improve it. Many colleges have already come to us looking for advice on how to ensure campus banking products are safe for their students. Colleges and students both win when schools use their partnerships to help students succeed, not leave them bogged down with hidden fees and unwelcome surprises.
The Consumer Bureau is also accepting complaints from students who run into problems with student loans and other financial products and services, such as credit cards, debit cards, prepaid cards, and auto loans. We encourage students who believe they have been mistreated (and all other consumers, for that matter) to visit our website at consumerfinance.gov to submit a complaint. So far, we have received over 540,000 complaints on consumer financial products from people all over the country. These complaints have led to a great deal of monetary and other relief. We also consider them carefully to inform our work to identify and root out bad actors in the financial marketplace.
Last year, through a pilot with four cities around the country, the Bureau took an in-depth look at ways to improve the financial capability of youth who are participating in summer employment programs. The discussions revealed that many programs that train and employ youth recognize the need to help them develop financial skills, but too often they don’t have the time, expertise, or resources to do so. We developed new tools to address these issues and will be collaborating with several communities to pilot these tools. I look forward to hearing from the panel of speakers who will discuss the role of cities and communities in improving the financial education of young Americans.
Our goal is to give young people the confidence and peace of mind that the financial world they enter as they leave high school is not full of pitfalls where one bad step will ruin their lives. I believe the work being done by the Consumer Bureau and the President’s Council will help to strengthen this feeling. We are always pleased to learn from you and work with you to ensure that every young American can gain the knowledge, skills, and resources to build a healthy financial future.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.