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by Desiree Ramirez, calendar editor

Sound stressful? It is.

Sally is typical of college students across America who struggle with the same problem, credit card debt. Every year, students are lured in by credit card companies who offer low annual percentage rates and incentives for spending. Students will often “take the bait,” not realizing the serious financial debt that could affect their future.

Although credit cards may be dangerous for some students, they are helpful for others and can come in handy in emergencies.

Meet a real student, Brianna Henderson, 25, an advertising major at HPU. Henderson had her first credit card in high school. It allowed her to begin building her credit, something that all college students must do. She used her first credit card to purchase a computer, and she now has three different credit cards, all of which were sent to her through the mail and already pre-approved. Henderson currently carries about $8,000 of debt and is using money from a private loan to pay them off. She does feel that the cards came in handy when she needed to purchase important things such as furniture, school books, and car insurance, but she admitted to charging clothes and also entertainment.

Recently Henderson has stopped charging and she warns students, “If you do get a credit card, make sure it has a low credit limit and low interest, and pay your bill on time!”

Nellie Mae, a leading provider of higher-education loans, published a study of undergraduate students and credit cards in 2002. According to the study, in 2001 most undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 24 had an average of four credit cards and carried more than $2,000 of debt. In 2004, the average credit card debt had decreased by 7 percent, although as students progress through school, credit card usage went up.

Brad Provines, an advisor at HPU, identified signs that show you may be in over your head: making only the minimum payments, charging food, and getting cash advances. If you are in this situation, Provines recommends the Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS), an organization that works with people as well as with the credit companies to eliminate over-limit fees and reduce interest charges. A credit counselor helps develop a budget that cuts down the debt more effectively.

Provines believes small budget adjustments over time will make a difference. “Deal with the problem while you are young,” he said. HPU’s Secrets of Success: Money Management seminar may help students. Until then, Provines said: pay off the balance every month or pay a double minimum payment, or at least regularly pay $10 to $20 more than the minimum payment.Mean while, the consumer credit counseling hotline is (800) 873-2227.


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