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A higher cause for campus debit cards?

Protecting our student’s financial future

Newly released findings on credit card usage among college students show that our students are relying on credit to a greater extent than ever before (see, The facts on student credit card usage, in this issue). More than 8 of 10 students have at least one credit card and the average student is in debt more than $2300 to their credit card issuers. This situation makes our campus debit programs even more important as we could be actively using this opportunity to teach fiscal responsibility to a generation of students that has obviously not learned it before.

Credit cards, by design, are intended for people with regular, periodic income. They are the perfect tool for purchases that the cardholder cannot pay for today, but will pay off in a short period of time (e.g. after pay day). The high interest rates exist to cover these short periods, enabling the credit issuer to recover costs and make a profit from short term loans. Long term loans–such as those for major purchases, automobiles, and college educations–have lower interest rates but longer, established payback cycles.

Was this lesson lost on the recent generations of college students? Or is financial aid not sufficient or sufficiently available to current students? With percentages as staggering as the recent studies show, it seems that it is a lack of financial responsibility in the majority of cases (there are certainly some students that must use credit cards to get by but it seems unlikely that this situation can account for the 85% of student cardholders carrying a revolving balance).

While the proliferation of credit cards and their use makes it more challenging for us to convince students to rely on our campus card debit or declining balance offerings, it also gives us an educational opportunity that rivals any lesson a student learns in classes. If we structure our programs correctly and develop some creative intervening messages and campaigns, our card programs could help teach financial responsiblity. Imagine that.

Chris Corum
Editor
[email protected]

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