Dealing with credit cards

A study found that in 2004, undergrads averaged balances of more than $2,000.

Nikki Wee

Buy now, pay later. Add that philosophy to free pizza, T-shirts or magnets and students have an offer many cannot refuse.

For this reason, college campuses are hotbeds for credit card companies soliciting new and naïve customers.

“Credit card companies become more aggressive with college students,” said Dave Golden, director of public health and marketing for Boynton Health Service. “Really, it’s all just a big rip-off. It may be legal, but it’s legal and a scam all rolled in one.”

Nellie Mae, a company that helps students manage debt and understand the responsibilities of borrowing, found that 76 percent of undergraduates in 2004 started off the school year with credit cards. That same study found that the average outstanding balance on undergraduate credit cards was more than $2,000.

Credit cards do not solely affect students financially, but can cause academic problems as well. Students with high debt tend to have lower grade point averages, according to a study done by Boynton.

Knowing this, the University has banned credit card companies from soliciting students on campus, making it the first school to make such an effort, said Kim Miller, a credit counselor for Lutheran Social Service.

Because of the effects credit cards have on students, Boynton offers financial counseling to students.

“I teach students how to finance their money, and if they are already in debt, help them figure out the best way to pay it off,” Miller said.

Miller, a credit counselor for Lutheran Social Service, comes in to Boynton on occasion to advise students on how to finance their money.

“Students are easy targets. Once (credit card companies) get you, they have you for life,” Miller said. “We were sick of meeting with bitter 30-year-olds having to pay off debt from credit cards they had in college.”

Along with the school’s efforts, students are getting smart about using credit cards.

First-year student Gabrielle Hurd said she ignores the flood of credit card offers she gets in the mail because she is afraid she will get into debt.

“I don’t even bother to read them; I just throw them away because I don’t need them,” she said. “I have a checking account, money and parents.”

Likewise, first-year electrical engineering student Jason Kalpin said he will be avoiding getting a credit card until he finds it necessary.

“It’s too big of a temptation,” he said. “You can go online and see something you like and buy it just like that. It can easily get out of hand.”

Although speech, languages and hearing sciences junior Valerie Haeger has a credit card, she uses it cautiously.

“When I was young, my mom had me get a credit card so I could get credit. I don’t put much on it; I’ll put things on it only if there’s not enough money in my savings account,” Haeger said.

Students seeking financial services such as counseling can make an appointment through Boynton.

Golden said students who make an appointment for financial counseling end up appreciating the opportunity.

“Finances are scary, but it’s always good to ask for help,” Miller said.