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Students catch credit card debt bug

June 20, 2001

Kim Reid doesn’t want a credit card.

She doesn’t want to spend money.

But Tuesday afternoon, she was strolling through downtown East Lansing in search of a job or two to support her habits.

“I spend money on entertainment,” the no-preference freshman said. “Movies, clothes, food.

“I would definitely use (a credit card) if I had one, but I don’t want to get myself into trouble. I wouldn’t really know what I was getting into.”

A 2000 study by student loan company Nellie Mae said undergraduates carry an average credit card debt of $2,748, more than double the average in 1993.

And while Reid prepares for the financial strain of late-night pizza orders, she also is preparing to be inundated with offers from credit card companies.

“It will be a temptation,” she said. “I have people calling my house now. I just say ‘She’s deceased.’”

But Joyce Banish, vice president of marketing for the MSU Federal Credit Union, said student delinquency with credit is no higher than delinquency with adults.

“(Students) take it very seriously,” she said. “The freshmen take it the most seriously. It’s a necessity of life almost. There’s so many things you can’t do without a Visa card.”

The credit union, 600 E. Crescent Road, will open about 6,200 new accounts in the fall. New customers will have a chance to apply for its 12.9 percent annual-percentage-rate Visa with a $1,000 limit.

“We offer a basic, no-frills card,” Banish said. “It’s pretty easy to understand. The last thing the world needs is another credit card, but you still need a little bit of credit.

“You never know when that emergency will pop up.”

But despite the ease with which students use their plastic funds, MSU has not accepted credit card payments for tuition or housing since 1991.

“One of the main reasons for not allowing credit cards is that it’s very costly,” said Laurie Schlenke, manager of student accounts. “The banks will charge the university a fee, just like any retailer.”

Instead, students can participate in the payment deferment plan, where students pay the minimum amount to cover enrollment or housing and pay the rest in increments throughout the year.

“Maybe the university might get their funds sooner with credit if the student doesn’t have the cash in their pocket,” Schlenke said. “But then again, the deferment plan is a payment plan. Slightly less than 50 percent participate.”

After four years of repaying debts and bills, marketing senior Dan Yankley said he’s settled down and stopped spending, despite having multiple cards in his wallet.

“I just use my card for emergencies,” he said. “I used to spend $400 on clothes, but never on anything that I needed. I worked for a month to pay off things I couldn’t even remember buying.

“When you get out of here, you want to be able to buy a house. I’m a little more responsible.”


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