Are Credit Card Offers on College Campuses Ethical?
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Credit Card Issuers' Rising Interest in College Students

Gerri Elder

With the rising cost of college study and the credit crunch spreading to the student loan market, the last thing college students need is another way to go into debt. Unfortunately, thanks to the promotional tactics of some credit card companies, that's exactly what they're getting. This is no joke. One of the main reasons people file for bankruptcy is due to high credit card bills. reports that the United States Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) recently conducted a study that uncovered some troubling credit card trends on the nation's college campuses. According to sources, credit card issuers are tempting college students to apply for credit cards with gimmicks and giveaways - and setting the stage for big-time debt down the line.

Some card issuers apparently offer tee-shirts, free sandwiches, even free iPods to anyone who fills out a credit card application. Because most college students tend to be new to the credit game (and not yet overwhelmed by other debt), it seems they're an ideal target for marketers.

According to the PIRG study, about two-thirds of college students have at least one credit card. Among cardholders, 55% use their plastic for day-to-day expenses. And, with costs related to schooling (like paying for books, food and housing) on the rise, those day-to-day expenses can add up quickly.

Sources indicate that, among freshmen not receiving financial support from their parents, the average credit card balance is approximately $1,300 - and that more than doubles for seniors.

The Los Angeles Times reports that some consumer groups have expressed chagrin at the methods used by some credit card companies to market to students. Some card issuers, it seems, rent table space in student centers to push their applications alongside student groups and campus organizations. Some issuers even garner the support of such groups by offering financial donations for each new user signed up.

Other card users reportedly offer incentives to students who can convince their friends to sign up or get students' personal information from alumni associations.

But should this be allowed?

Some legislators have apparently expressed the opinion that Americans younger than 21 should have to complete opt-in forms before receiving credit card applications by mail. The card issuers, though, reportedly argue that legal adults should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to sign up for credit cards.

Plus, with consumer debt at its current levels, some credit card industry insiders have allegedly pointed out that college students are no less responsible with credit card debt than the rest of American adults.

But the presence of credit card offers on college campuses has irked more than one legislator. Reports indicate that both New Jersey and Maryland have taken steps to limit the influence and presence of credit cards at colleges.

It seems the real problem is a lack of awareness of how credit cards work and how much debt they can cause.

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