Student Debt on the Rise
Credit cards causing students more problems than solutions
October 13, 2005 7:22 PM
Susanna Sanchez’s freshman year at SF State was her first taste of independence, a curfew-free lifestyle and credit card debt.
A nationwide survey by Smith College, a liberal art college for women, found that 23 percent of students are using credit cards to pay for tuition, and 53 percent are willing to add the expenses of textbooks, school supplies and other necessities to their next credit card bill.
Sanchez, 19, decided to take out student loans when her decision to use a credit card to pay for tuition put her $3,000 dollars in debt. Her loan allowed her to pay off her bill completely, but she regrets using the credit card as an easy, on-the-spot, payment.
“I realize now how much more I would have had to pay my credit card, and that it would have been smarter for me to take out loans rather than succumbing to using credit cards,” Sanchez said.
Director of Public Affairs and Publications, Ellen Griffin, said that 35 - 40 percent of SF State students use credit cards to pay for registration fees, tuition, housing and other university charges.
“Our Bursar’s Office warns that credit cards are an appropriate financial resource for emergency funding, but students could find themselves in an endless cycle of credit card dependency when they use them for day-to-day purchases,” said Griffin.
She advises students to be cognizant of the fact that, if these charges are not paid within a reasonable time, they will accumulate additional debts to a point that could jeopardize their financial stability.
According to SF State Economics Professor Dr. Daniel Vencill, credit cards require students to pay their debt immediately, while student loans are more flexible toward student’s needs and do not require immediate payment. He also emphasized that interest rates in credit cards are up to 16 - 18 percent, while student loans only have 5 - 7 percent interest rate with the option of paying it back after graduation.
Vencill explained that credit card companies choose to target students due to their motivation to pay for school without consideration for the outcome.
“Credit card companies have solicited students and handed out credit cards like candy, and students who have no experience go on debt because they have no experience with balancing and budgeting their money,” said Vencill. “They have this credit card with a limit of several thousands of dollars that will take 20 years to pay off.”
He added that due to California’s deficit, the government is less willing to pay for student education, cornering students to pay a bigger portion of their education than some students can afford.
“Everyone is sucked in,” said Vencill. “Low-income people are forced and middle-income people are seduced into using cards.”
Using credit cards usually leads to overspending due to accessibility and the illusion that money can be spent now and be paid later, and credit card companies rope students into debt, said Vencill.
In a 2001 study conducted by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, 83 percent of undergraduate students have at least one credit card and a balance of more than $2,000, which means millions of dollars in interest profit for credit card companies.
Nancy Nguyen, a sophomore, obtained her first credit card during her second semester at SF State to build her credit, but by the time she finished her first year, she had accrued more than $2,000 in debt, which she is slowly paying off in $100 installments.
“I had no money and work wasn’t paying enough and my parents only give $300 for rent, so I had to charge everything,” said 19-year-old Nguyen.
Although she did not drop out of school, she was forced to continue her education at Skyline Community College to lessen her school fees and tuition.
Vencill warns students that placing high priority on education leads to some students misusing their credit cards. Also, with the rise of tuition fees, students are feeling the pressure to be in more debt to fulfill their education, he said.
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