A little plastic can create a massive burden

Ken Kaffine

College of Liberal Arts sophomore Nikki Hinke feels fortunate that her credit card debts have not led to other problems in her life.
“It (a credit card) was so easy to use,” Hinke said. “It’s not like you’re dealing with money.”
However, other University students with high credit card debts tend to smoke, drink, underachieve and suffer from depression more than other students according to a Boynton Health Service survey released recently.
David Golden, director of Boynton health education, administered the survey last spring to 900 University students who were randomly selected. More than 500 students replied to the survey.
He decided to administer the survey because he said he felt that previous assessments produced evidence that financial concerns might be a key variable in overall student health.
“We did the survey because a high percentage of students reported that credit card debt was a major source of stress in their lives,” Golden said.
The survey found that 88 percent of students said they have one or more credit cards, and 29 percent of those students surveyed had more than $1,000 in credit card debt, an amount which is considered to be high debt.
Survey results show that students with high debts smoke nearly three times as much and drink twice as much as students with little or no debt. In addition, these students generally have lower grade point averages.
The survey also links credit card debt to depression. Nearly 9 percent of those who responded to the survey reported that they were taking antidepressants. About 2 percent of those respondents with no debt are on medication for depression.
Golden characterized high credit card debt as high-risk behavior along with smoking, drinking, poor academic performance and depression. Although the survey seems to show a direct link between credit card debt and other high-risk activities, they all might be symptoms of a larger problem.
“This is not the kind of study where we can assume which is the cause and which is the effect,” Golden said. “Some individuals are predisposed to participate in higher risk activity.”
Currently there are no specific counseling services available on campus for students with credit card problems. However, University Counseling and Consulting Services has discussed developing such a program.
“This is a real problem,” said Lud Spolyar, a psychologist at University Counseling and Consulting Services. “There is a need for this kind of specific counseling. Students need to be educated about the pitfalls of credit card debt. They need to realize that the cards they are laying on the counter today can come back and haunt them tomorrow.”
Hinke also said she is concerned about debt problems because credit cards are so easily accessible to students on campus.
Since the late 1980s, credit card companies have faced markets saturated with working adults already paying high interest rates on credit card bills. As a result, they turned elsewhere to generate new business, aggressively marketing their cards to college students.
Their strategies at the University include coming to campus and bombarding students with free gifts, candy and even money if they will apply for the cards.
Hinke said that she won’t rely so heavily on credit cards in the future.
“I was just stupid,” she said. “I’m not going to do it again.”