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by Emily

While an increasing number of college students received financial aid in the 2007-2008 academic year, that calendar year students also ran up more credit card debt.  The average college student owed $3,173 on credit cards in March 2008, compared to $2,169 in 2004.  This information comes from the student lender Sallie Mae, which has been tracking students' credit card debt since 1998.

The study also found that student credit card debt increases with grade level.  The average freshman owed $2,038 on credit cards, while the average senior owed $4,138.  The money is not just being spent on beer and pizza, either.  According to a supplemental survey by Sallie Mae, the vast majority of students (92 percent) report charging at least one educational expense, such as books, to a credit card.  This figure is also higher than in 2004, as is the percentage of students charging tuition to a credit card, which now stands at nearly 30 percent.  Students reported charging an average of $2,000 in educational expenses to credit cards.

Higher tuition, a poor economy, and difficulty finding private loans may have already pushed these numbers higher for 2009.  With high interest rates and the need to begin repayment immediately, credit cards are one of the worst ways to pay for school.  Scholarship opportunities and federal student financial aid should definitely be explored before students resort to charging tuition to a card.  A variety of grants and scholarships, as well as low interest student loans, can help students avoid credit card debt while in college, and keep their debt from consuming their entire salary when they graduate.  Before you reach for the plastic to pay your campus bills, spend a few minutes doing a free scholarship search.  You may be very glad you did.


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by Emily

Student loans and credit cards make up the two most dangerous, and often difficult to avoid, debt traps for college students.  While some amount of borrowing for college can make life easier for students, too much debt can make life nearly impossible for graduates.  The same goes for credit cards.  Having a card is great for emergencies and your credit rating, but running up a large balance while in college can really hurt, especially for students who were approved during days of easy credit and are now seeing rates soar and credit limits plummet.

However, Congress is working to make things easier for current credit card holders and also to make the choice of whether or not to open a credit account less nerve-wracking for new college students.  Legislation in both the House of Representatives and the Senate seeks to create a "credit card holders' bill of rights," curbing confusing and predatory practices by banks issuing credit cards.  While the bills have received bipartisan support, including a ringing endorsement from President Obama, there is still some concern about possible backlash in the form of even more stringent credit requirements for people who want to open credit card accounts.

Still, picking up a poorly screen printed t-shirt along with a new line of credit with an 18+ percent interest rate is a campus tradition unlikely to be missed by many.  With college students' credit card debt still on the rise as of 2008 and relief from private loans still nowhere in sight, any new consumer debt protection will likely be welcomed by many college students and recent graduates.


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by Agnes Jasinski

The Federal Reserve Board proposed new regulations last week that would prohibit creditors from issuing credit cards to anyone under 21 without the consent of that applicant's parent or guardian, or proof that the consumer would be able to make the required payments on their own. Those rules would amend some of the provisions in the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, a bill passed by Congress last May that, among other things, would hinder credit card companies from getting college students to sign up for offers at on-campus booths.

You know you've seen it before - the free T-shirt that you probably wouldn't wear, but was appealing anyway because it was free. All you had to do was sign up for a credit card. An article in The Chronicle for Higher Education when the bill was first moving through Congress described college students as the most targeted population when it comes to new customers for credit card companies.

Critics of the bill then said that college students, who take on a slew of new responsibilities once they get on campus, should be treated as adults. And during a time when students are more apt to use credit cards to pay for college expenses, they shouldn't meet obstacles when using their credit cards for college expenses. According to a recent survey by student lender Sallie Mae, 84 percent of undergraduates have at least one credit card; 92 percent of those undergraduates use the cards toward college expenses. College students' average balances are more than $3,100.

So what's the bigger problem? Having access to credit to pay for college expenses, or preventing college students from accruing large sums of debt?

Credit cards should be used as the last line of defense, and ideally for emergencies only. There are many options out there for you to find money for college that have nothing to do with being faced with high interest rates and exorbitant fees. Do your research to apply for college scholarships and grants that would result in free money to cover your college expenses. Consider a part-time job on campus if you have the time and can balance work and college. And while not as desirable, investigate low-interest student loans to supplement your financial aid package.

If you need to use credit, make sure you're keeping within a manageable budget, and only charging as much as you'd be able to realistically pay off at the end of the month. The decisions you make now will matter post-graduation, and any decision involving opening a new line of credit should be approached with caution. Stick to one card if you need one, and if you find yourself in debt, pay off as much as you're able to each month until you're done. (Don't be using that card while you're trying to pay it off, though.) Browse through our site to see more tips on budgeting, how you can avoid mounds of credit card debt, and how to keep your credit card score healthy.

The new regulations would go into effect after Feb. 2010, but the public, credit card industry and others will have a chance to voice their opinions beforehand. Other rules proposed by the Board included:

  • Limiting high fees associated with subprime credit cards.
  • Prohibiting increases in a credit card interest rate during the first year after an account is opened, and increases in a rate that applies to an existing credit card balance.
  • Requiring creditors to obtain consumers' consents before charging fees for transactions that exceed their credit limits.


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by Emily

Private student loans may soon come under increased federal regulation as Congress takes up legislation that would create a consumer financial protection agency. The bill moved out of the House Financial Services Committee yesterday and will soon go to a floor vote.

Lenders fought the legislation, but the proposed amendment to exempt student loans from the agency's oversight was defeated in committee. A brief but heated debate also arose over whether the agency should also regulate "gap loans" made by private for-profit colleges directly to students to help cover tuition and other expenses. Ultimately, the panel sided with the schools who argued that new Truth in Lending restrictions already offered students sufficient protection in regards to borrowing from schools.

Student loans are only one of several aspects of lending that would be regulated by the new agency. They'd be accompanied by mortgages, credit cards, and other bank-based loans. This comes in addition to legislation that's already been passed that will limit lenders' ability to market credit cards to college students. However, auto financing plans offered by car dealers were exempted and the agency's role in regulating smaller banks and lending institutions was also limited by amendments.

Backers of the proposed regulatory agency hope that its creation will offer greater protection to consumers, including college students, who find themselves overwhelmed by risky debt or deceptive lending practices. They hope that they will be able to limit the extremely high interest rates and confusing terms that accompany some private loans.  Student lenders have previously come under fire for questionable lending practices and have paid out large settlements and agreed to new codes of conduct governing their practices of marketing loans to students and offering incentives to colleges to promote their services on "preferred lender" lists. Private loans have also seen increased regulation this year, with previous student aid legislation requiring them to disclose terms up front, among other steps taken to make their lending practices more transparent.


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by Agnes Jasinski

New regulations that the federal government hopes will protect college students from excessive credit card debt by making it more difficult for young people to open multiple lines of credit go into effect Monday. The regulations, which fall under the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, were approved by Congress last May.

The key pieces of the act include the followin:

  • Creditors will be prohibited from issuing credit cards to anyone under 21 without the consent of that applicant’s parent or guardian, or proof that the consumer would be able to make the required payments on their own.
  • Creditors will be barred from offering students perks, such as coupons or T-shirts and book bags decorated with the companies' logos, for opening a new credit card account at campus events.
  • Companies will be required to disclose any existing relationships with colleges and universities annually to the Federal Reserve Board; colleges and universities will be required to disclose any existing relationships with credit card companies as well.

The regulations also included a strong suggestion to institutions of higher education that they provide education and counseling to students who may be struggling with credit card debt, or who may know little about managing credit card usage wisely.

Critics of the act since it was approved say that college students, who take on a slew of new responsibilities once they get on campus, should be treated as adults. For better or worse, students now are more apt to use credit cards to pay for their college expenses, and critics say they shouldn’t meet obstacles when using their credit cards for those costs. (According to a recent survey by student lender Sallie Mae, 84 percent of undergraduates have at least one credit card; 92 percent of those undergraduates use the cards toward college expenses. College students’ average balances are more than $3,100.) Some consumer advocates also say that while it's a good first step toward keeping students from incurring massive amounts of debt, it doesn't do enough, according to an article today in Inside Higher Ed. It fails to include any cap on the interest rate credit card providers can charge, for example.

We have a number of resources available to you about how to avoid credit card debt, make smart decisions about covering your college costs, and managing your money so that you're spending within your means. It may not mean much to you now, but it isn't all that easy to improve upon a credit score. The spending choices you make today will follow you down the line, so ideally, stick to one card if you need one, and if you find yourself in debt, pay off as much as you’re able to each month until you’re done.


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Credit Card Crack Down

SUNY Adopts Credit Card Reform Agreement

September 10, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Ah, the emergencies only credit card. Sounds great in theory but when a student’s cash flow is low, the term “emergency” can take on an entirely new meaning (some sweet new sneakers or a floor dinner at Chez Fancypants, perhaps?). If Mom and Dad aren’t too keen on the idea – maybe they’ve been there, done that and have the credit score to prove it – there hasn’t been much they could do to prevent their child from stopping by the student union during the first week of classes and signing up for myriad cards and repercussions…until Andrew Cuomo stepped into their corner.

Reuters recently posted an article detailing the State University of New York’s agreement with the New York Attorney General to adopt practices to protect students from unnecessary debt. SUNY, with 465,000 students on 64 campuses throughout the state, is the first university in the country to adopt this sort of reform, which calls for mandatory financial literacy programs to educate students on loans, credit cards and finances in general to minimize the nearly $4,100 in credit card debt and $20,000 in loans that most four-year college students graduate with. Letters have also been sent to the state’s approximately 300 higher educational facilities insisting that they evaluate any existing contracts with credit and debit card companies, prohibit the sharing of students’ personal information with card companies without authorization, limit on-campus marketing and never accept percentages of charges imposed on students.

When I began my freshman year at UConn in 2001, I made the decision not to sign up for a credit card for one simple reason: I knew that when I tired of my wardrobe or dining hall food, it would have been all too easy to bust out the plastic. That being said, I knew plenty of people who were tempted by the free t-shirts and bottle openers and they would have surely benefited from Cuomo’s reform and tips like these. Now to our readers: Have any financial wins or woes from your college days you'd care to share? Would you have made different choices if more information was available? Were the sneakers worth it?


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Credit Cards Are Not Magic and Other Money Management Tips

by Radha Jhatakia

Managing money is difficult for many people, not just college students! I’ve been taught to save every penny and paying for school myself has been the biggest reason but friends of mine who haven’t struggled as much don’t have the same outlook. For them, credit cards are magic and their parents are instant money taps.

My best friend is the reason I’m writing this article. She struggles with money but I don’t understand why. She’s been working since she was 16, her parents pay for school and bought her a car yet she doesn’t have a single dime saved! Ever hear the phrase “A penny saved is a penny earned?” I’m guessing she hasn’t but it’s true. Gaining a dollar doesn’t mean you have to spend it because in the future, you may not have that dollar. Here are a few more tips:

Having bad credit now may not matter to you but it will affect you in the future when you apply for home loans and car insurance. Be wise, spend wise and look up the rule of 72.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major who will be transferring to San Jose State University this fall. She’s had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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To Charge or Not to Charge?

September 13, 2011

To Charge or Not to Charge?

by Lisa Lowdermilk

“Just charge it.”

I'm willing to bet that you’ve been in a store and heard that phrase. Even if you haven't, you’ve probably been bombarded with letters asking you if you'd like to lower your interest rates, encountered representatives hawking credit cards (and complimentary t-shirts!) on the quad or heard of people who have racked up thousands of dollars in debt from recklessly swiping their plastic.

While handling a credit card involves a lot of responsibility, the good news is that it comes with plenty of perks as well. Citibank, for example, offers a Visa card just for college students and has a system of reward points to boot. Depending on your GPA, you can earn anywhere from 250 to 2,000 ThankYou Points just for doing well in your classes. You also get points for making your payments on time, which is a great incentive not to skip payments or only pay the minimum and accrue unnecessary interest penalties. You even earn five times as many points at restaurants, bookstores and more. So, while textbooks aren't exactly cheap, just remember that you're being partially reimbursed every time you use your credit card to buy them.

In a larger sense, using a credit card responsibly also helps students to establishing a good credit score. The higher this number is, the better your chances are of being accepted for a loan on your dream car or house. Lenders will see that you are not a liability and will be more likely to provide you with the funds needed to reach your goals.

If you're still not sold on getting a credit card, that's okay. There's plenty of time to establish credit after college. For those of you considering a credit card, though, just remember to spend responsibly and make your payments as promptly as possible.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Preventing Identity Theft in College

by Lisa Lowdermilk

We've all heard the stories about people whose lives have been turned upside-down by identity theft and college students are not exempt. Part of the reason why identity theft is so rampant is that people don't take the necessary precautions. Here are a couple of tips to help keep your identity intact.

Install anti-spyware software on your computer. Spyware is just what it sounds like: software designed to spy on the personal information you provide through your computer. Hackers can then obtain everything from your credit card number to your password on Facebook while you're connected to the Internet. If you have anti-spyware installed on your computer, though, you'll never have to worry about spyware in the first place.

Keep your personal information private. Keeping your credit card and social security numbers under wraps is a given but identity thieves can find out lots about you through the information you post on Facebook, your blog and other online forums. Avoid posting your address and birthdate where anyone can find it. Also, never give your personal information to someone who contacts you claiming to be from your credit card agency. Think about it: If this person really was from your credit card agency, he or she would already have your personal information on file and have no reason to ask for it.

Shred sensitive documents when you've finished reading them.Dumpster divers” rummage for a number of things in those big metal bins...including documents containing personal information. Don't make their job any easier: Shred all your mail and any other papers containing personal information before anyone else can get a hold of them.

Lisa Lowdermilk is a published poet, avid video gamer and artist. Her poems have appeared in Celebrate Young Poets: West (Fall 2006) edition and Widener University's The Blue Route. She enjoys watching thrillers, trying different restaurants and attempting to breakdance. Lisa is now majoring in professional writing at the University of Colorado Denver.


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Are College Students Borrowing Too Much or Not Enough?

by Alexis Mattera

Did you have to take out student loans in order to pay for all or part of your college education? Probably, as total student loan debt passed total credit card debt for the first time and is approaching the $1 trillion mark, but the bigger problem could be that college students who truly need to borrow are not doing so.

In a new analysis of student debt published in AEA’s Journal of Economic Perspectives, researchers Christopher Avery and Sarah Turner explain that overemphasis in news coverage of students drowning in debt is scaring people away from taking on healthy debt. They say that capital investment one takes on with a student loan is growing – males with college degrees make $600,000 more in their lifetimes than peers with only high school degrees – but just one in six full-time students at four-year colleges who are eligible for a student loan do not take one out. Why? The study cites rational self-control, short-sightedness and risk factors like the difficulty of predicting future earnings but also reveals that many loan-less students accrue debt by relying heavily on credit cards to cover educational expenses and half work more than 20 hours per week – a schedule that could hurt their chances of graduating on time or at all.

There’s much more to the study here but what’s your take on student loans? Is borrowing worth it if it's done responsibly or is it best to use loans as a last resort in funding your education?


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