I spent last weekend in the City of Brotherly Love at anevent themed "accepted students orientation," which was being stagedat one of the local colleges, as my eldest daughter prepares to further hersecondary education.
In between meeting with department heads, checking outthe dining services and reaffirming a long-held belief that"dormitories" and "cleanliness" are two words that shouldnever be used in the same sentence, we also took in a session on financial aid.
Amidst the dizzy reality of what it takes financially tomatriculate through four years of college, I began mulling the incidentalexpenses required - the kind they quickly skim over at such meetings.
Naturally, the subject was broached (by her) of a creditcard and I quickly envisioned a monthly statement that more closely resembled azip code than prudent spending.
While I'm often accused of being overly dramatic, arecent survey from Sallie Mae on student debt did little to quell a doomsdayscenario.
The study, "How Undergraduates Use Their CreditCards," estimated that the average balance of a student card was $3,173, a46 percent increase over 2004, while 84 percent of students have at least onecredit card and half of those in the survey have FOUR or more credit cards.
By graduation, the average debt is $4,700, while nearlyhalf carry a balance greater than $7,000.
That, incidentally, is about $3,000 more than the entirecost of my first two years in college!
Not surprisingly, just 17 percent pay off their monthlybalance and one-third put their tuition on a credit card.
One of the more shocking findings is that 40 percent ofthe surveyed students charged things that they knew they could not afford.
Now I would like to think that my offspring have too muchsense to make such an impulsive decision, but I never, and neither shouldanyone else, underestimate for a moment, the influence of peer pressure.
The problem is that right out of the gate, graduates arewrestling with debt not to mention the imposing tuition loans that eventuallyhave to be repaid and there are few avenues offering practical guidance oncredit card management and spending habits for that age demographic.Compounding that are the volumes of credit card solicitations they receiveeither via email or snail mail on a daily basis. It truly is the unsupervisedchild in the candy store.
Before I send her off in the fall, her mother and I planto sit down with her and explain the ramifications of undisciplined spendingand that she alone will be responsible for paying it off should she amass aTARP-like deficit.
Because unlike GM and Citigroup there will be no bailout.
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