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It used to be that by the time September rolled around, college campuses were awash with students--and credit card marketers. Credit card issuers, working in agreement with universities, would try to get students to sign up for credit cards for small gifts like t-shirts or pizza. The issuer got a customer, the college pocketed some money, and come graduation time, the student, if he wasn't careful with his credit card use, could be knee-deep in debt.

In an effort to make the marketing agreements between credit card issuers and educational institutions more transparent, the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, typically called "the Credit CARD Act," requires credit card issuers to submit a copy of their credit card agreements with educational institutions to the Federal Reserve. It also prohibits credit card issues from giving credit cards to anyone younger than 21 unless he can prove he has the income to make credit card payments, or if a parent cosigns for the card.

In the Federal Reserve's latest "Report on College Credit Card Agreements," the numbers show that the Credit CARD Act may be having an effect on marketers' on-campus efforts, as the number of these agreements with educational institutions dropped by four percent in 2010. The act also affected the number of accounts and money earned by educational institutions, dropping by 17 and 13 percent respectively.

Still, the payout to university groups can still be fairly substantial. Even though educational institutions saw a smaller payday, they still raked in over $73 million.

Over half of this income comes from cards connected to alumni associations. In 2010, the Federal Reserve reports that these groups had over 850,000 accounts that generated just over $40 million in payments to the associations. These payments differ with each university's agreement with the issuer, but they usually come in the form of a fee for every account that's opened and a royalty for every transaction that the cardholder makes with the card.

Alumni associations do put that money to use for projects on campus and university scholarships. The Ex-Students Association of the University of Texas, also known as the Texas Exes, use some of their $2 million in fees to provide scholarships to incoming freshmen who wish to attend Texas Camp, a three-day program that helps students integrate into the university.

Cardholders get the satisfaction of knowing they're helping their alma mater, but they may also reap other benefits like rewards points. In the case of the Penn State Alumni Association's "We Are Penn State" credit card, allows the cardholder to use points toward Penn State experiences like football tickets and pre-game sideline passes. Penn State's program is the largest and highest-earning credit card agreement, with 70,060 accounts generating $4.3 million for the association, roughly double that of the second-highest earning agreement, which is the Texas Exes program.

Another benefit of the cards is that they allow new alumni who may not have much of a credit history a chance to build credit. That was the case for Matthew Day, an assistant professor in the department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Arkansas, who got a University of Texas at Austin American Express about seven years ago. "I got it at first through the Texas Exes because I could get the card even though I had no credit history," says Day.

"I don't feel any pride for UT sports teams, but seeing the longhorn logo does sometimes make me feel nostalgic for my college years," says Day. "I don't know if the card actually helps UT. I like using it because it's Amex and because the interest rate is lower than my other cards."

Still, Day, a recent transplant to Arkansas, has learned that the benefits of having a college-branded credit card may not outweigh an unexpected hassle. "Now whenever I use the card in person, people warn me that I should never show UT pride in Fayetteville because of the Razorback football fans."