Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

GU Banking Partners Under Consideration

Georgetown’s 10-year partnership with Capital One and PNC Bank could come to an end this year.

The partnership, which began as a five-year contract in 2003, was renewed without competition for an additional five years through 2013. This year, the university sent “requests for intent” to vendors other than Capital One, though the bank is still in the running for a continued contract.

There is currently a Capital One branch in Leavey Center, and GOCards can be linked to PNC accounts to function as debit cards.

“We’re looking a little more broadly at what we want,” Associate Vice President for Financial Operations Lennie Carter said.

Qualities that the university is looking for in potential partners include wealth management, reduced fees and increased training and availability, as well as working with students to complete portfolios, manage budgets, establish and maintain credit scores and manage credit cards and credit-card debt.

A review committee composed of financial officers, students and faculty will evaluate a final list of banks to determine which partnership would best serve the university and the student population. The committee intends to make a decision by April 1, 2014, after which the campus community will be notified of any changes to campus banking.

“With our relationships, we wanted to be as transparent as possible, and we want to make sure that we include as many people as possible,” Carter said. “We want to make sure that we’re serving the community, that we’re providing the service and that there is student representation, as well as faculty and staff.”

This announcement to re-evaluate the relationship between Capital One and Georgetown comes soon after congressional scrutiny of the nationwide trend of relationships between banks and universities. In September, seven Democratic members of Congress addressed nine major financial institutions, requesting details about their partnerships with universities. Although Capital One was not among these institutions, PNC was. One of the letter’s primary causes of concern was linking of debit accounts to college IDs, which PNC does at Georgetown with GOCards.

In addition, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau held a forum in early October, during which students testified how they had felt pressured or obligated to sign up for certain bank-offered products without being made aware of other options.

Overall, federal regulators are wary of the marketing arrangements between banks and colleges and referenced recent reports that, through those recruiting techniques, students are saddled with extraneous fees.

“Many see students as nothing more than dollar signs in backpacks,” CFPB Assistant Director and Student Loan Ombudsman Rohit Chopra told ABC News. “Too often, these deals aren’t what’s in the best interest of students.”

Several experts have suggested alternatives, such as implementing a code of conduct for bank-college partnerships, which would generally restrict the ability of lenders to co-brand with universities. Others have suggested banning all agreements between financial institutions and colleges and instead make direct deposit the first suggested option for students.

Some students have encountered this sort of pressure to open accounts with university-sanctioned banks.

“On some level, I feel as though we’re inferior in knowing about banks, and they have the power and control to make us sign documents that we’re not really sure about, but as students, we just see it as a line, and we should just sign it because that’s what we’ve always been told to do,” Tanner Davis (SFS ’17) said.

Congress’s request for information also addressed overwhelming publicity for such campus-partnered financial institutions, which often gives students the feeling that there are no other options.

“I already had Capital One, but I definitely did feel pressure from, not necessarily Georgetown but the advertising that was at Georgetown because the people in Leavey were really encouraging it,” Davis said of advertising at Georgetown. “It just seemed like they were harassing people. It was a little much.”

Nevertheless, some students said they appreciated the guidance.

“Especially for international students or students who haven’t had a credit card, we don’t really know what’s the best bank to go with, so it would be nice to get advice from the university,” Leah Metoudi (COL ’17) said.

Georgetown Capital One Branch Manager April Seymour declined repeated requests for comment.

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