Text of February 21, 2001 letter to Senate from President Lawrence acknowledging Recommendations and Resolution regarding Student Financial Management and Credit-Card Debt:

Thank you for sending the University Senate’s thoughtful recommendations and resolution regarding Student Financial Management and Credit-Card Debt. Aggressive marketing of credit cards to our undergraduate students is of paramount concern. The accumulation of unmanageable debt by college students and the concomitant impact on their personal credit are national issues within the higher education community that receive regular attention in national and local media. Rutgers must better understand the extent and nature of the problem among our students and should, as the Senate suggests, embark upon a responsive educational initiative as well as a review of our institutional policies and practices to insure that the university is providing students with an environment conducive to sound financial decision-making. Accordingly, I am directing that the university respond to the Senate resolution on several levels.

Consistent with the Senate’s recommendation calling upon Rutgers to initiate educational programming targeted at advising and assisting students in managing their finances and debt, I am asking the Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Emmet Dennis, to coordinate the development and implementation of appropriate educational initiatives aimed at undergraduate students university-wide. I understand that such efforts are already underway as a task force that includes the Director of Compliance and Student Policy Concerns, the University Director of Financial Aid and staff from Rutgers Cooperative Extension has begun discussions on new programming initiatives. In keeping with the Senate’s recommendation, this task force, should explore external funding opportunities and partnerships to support implementation of its programming, with oversight by the Vice President for Student Affairs.

As noted above, Rutgers must better understand the extent to which the problems outlined in the Senate’s recommendation are affecting our students. Toward that end, I am asking the Office of Institutional Research and Planning to assist the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and the above-referenced task force by collecting pertinent data through a survey of Rutgers undergraduate students. It is my understanding that the Office of Financial Aid has developed a draft survey instrument. This should help expedite the development of Rutgers-specific data.

Further, I am asking Vice President of Student Affairs Emmet Dennis to establish a representative committee to review current university policies and practices with respect to the marketing of credit cards to students, to evaluate the recommendations contained in the Senate Report, and to recommend appropriate changes in policy. Dr. Dennis should be able to give a progress report to the University Senate before the end of the Fall 2001 semester.

Francis L. Lawrence