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Words of wisdom from a debt survivor
Posted March 10, 2006

How would you like to have $1,000 to spend on anything you want? See, your mind is already thinking of what to buy. With most students preparing for the rest of their lives, why not start to build your credit?

This reason alone that gives students the drive to open accounts especially when many college students are offered zero percent interest for six to 12 months. This makes students think, “Hey I can get the money in that time.”

Yeah, it’s great that you have no interest, but what many fail to read is that after the 12 months the remaining balance on the card will jump to a 17-22 percent interest and also accrue the past year’s interest.

According to the Nellie Mae Loan Corporation, the undergrad student falls under a $3000-$7000 debt just to creditors not to mention the student loans that they already have taken out just to go to school.

I myself have fallen into the black hole of credit cards. It is so easy: You get a pre-approved letter in the mail explaining that you are eligible for a zero percent credit card for 12 months. You call the number, give them your information and in a few days, BOOM, a card that gives you access to $1,000. Once you apply for one, it seems that more and more pre-approved applications come in the mail. What do we college students do? We apply for them.

Yes, some may say it’s really not that big of a deal, I’ll get the money in a year to pay it off. Trust me; it is. That iPod, new surfboard or even a car stereo is so accessible by the time you realize it you’re $5,500 in the hole. So why don’t you just pay it off, you have a job. I can get $5,500 in a year, you say. I’ll just pick up some shifts.

But here’s the problem: Your part-time job, which gives you maybe 18 hours a week is not going to give you the amount you will need to get rid of those credit cards.

I can’t tell my parents, you think. They are already paying my rent, school or any other asset that a full time student needs. Okay I’ll just have to pay with the money I earn from my job.

Well what if your agreement with your parents is that the money you earn from your job is supposed to go to those dates, or nights out having fun? Again your parents are already picking up the tab for everything else. This is when you realize that you can’t ask them for more money, not because they wouldn’t give it to you, but you would have to explain to them you’re paying $250 a month in credit card bills. There go the nights out with friends. Generic brand cereal becomes not only your breakfast, but also your lunch and dinner. Is it worth it? The answer is no. I know first hand.

Many students are going through this process every year. According to Nellie Mae, many college graduates are beginning their professional career with a $20,000 debt. Loan sharks, not paying the bills and even suicide have become easy alternatives for students. Suicide has been the most popular for students due to the debt they obtain. It has been so bad that thousands of colleges across the nation have prohibited credit merchants from coming to their university or even advertising.

It is important to establish good credit but now is not the time. Have fun, enjoy college and with time everything will come. Patience is a virtue.

Matt Griffin, a junior journalism major, is sports editor for the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at mgriffin@ulv.edu.