Coney Island

Council passes Treyger finance education bill

March 13, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Mark Treyger says he wants young people to be better educated when it comes to finance. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas

Lawmaker says young people need better advice to avoid debt

More than 50 million Americans carry student loan debt, including over 1.3 million New York City residents, according to Councilmember Mark Treyger, who said that the Class of 2014 is the most indebted class ever.

And the Class of 2015 is expected to surpass the Class of 2014.

Alarmed at high amounts of student debt and the scarcity of solid education programs aimed at teaching young people about handling money, Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) sponsored a bill that would require the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs to increase its financial literacy programs.

The council passed Treyger’s bill unanimously on March 11.

Under the legislation, the Dept. of Consumer Affairs would be required to provide outreach and education to young adults ages 16 to 24 on financial literacy and consumer protection issues through its website, the city’s public school system and the City University of New York.

The idea of the legislation is to provide students and young adults with the knowledge and tools needed to make sound financial decisions and avoid credit issues later in life, Treyger said.

Treyger, who taught at New Utrecht High School in Bensonhurst before entering politics, said that when he was teaching, he saw how credit card companies and other financial institutions heavily targeted teenagers for their products.

“As a public school teacher, I saw firsthand how students are aggressively targeted by credit card companies and other financial institutions, often without understanding the long term implications of their decisions. This leads to countless young Americans finding themselves in debt early in life, even before they have attended college or purchased a home,” Treyger said.

At New Utrecht High School, Treyger often went outside the Economics 101 curriculum to offer his students, particularly seniors, information about finance. “These were young people applying to colleges and making decisions about whether they could afford tuitions at certain schools. This led to conversations about student loans and credit. This was not part of the curriculum. These were discussions in the classroom,” Treyger told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Treyger said he was shocked to learn during those discussions with his students that many of them already had numerous credit cards.

“This legislation is personal for me,” he told the Eagle.

Banks and other lending institutions market aggressively to young adults, with the percentage of college students with credit card debt increasing from 67 percent in 1998 to 84 percent in 2008, Treyger said. During the same time, the number of students who held more than four credit cards increased from 27 percent to 50 percent.

Even more troubling, a survey by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority found that only 24 percent of young adults were able to answer four or five questions correctly on a five-question financial literacy quiz

“While there is no silver bullet for this problem, we are taking an important step towards fighting back against predatory lending and other practices that trap young adults in a cycle of debt,” Treyger said.