By: Emily Christensen
August 30, 2010
The days of University of Northern Iowa students trading their personal information for a credit card and free T-shirt are long gone.
But the school's ban on campus credit card solicitations didn't keep the companies from bombarding underclassmen with mailings and e-mails enticing them into the world of borrowed money. Though the solicitations are still legal, federal legislation enacted on Aug. 22 will make it more difficult for young adults to obtain a credit card.
And officials inside the school's financial aid office couldn't be happier. Under the new law those under 21 must have someone over 21 co-sign on the card with them. Credit card companies are also prohibited from marketing their services within 1,000 feet of a college campus or college event.
"Some students are ready for the responsibility and know the consequences. They know not to go out on the town with a credit card," said Joyce Morrow, UNI's director of financial aid. "But right now, we have a good share of students who aren't prepared for it."
Morrow hopes the new "Live like a Student" campaign will not only teach students about credit cards, but also boost their overall financial literacy in areas like budgeting, borrowing and identity protection. The campaign includes six 50-minute, noncredit courses and one-on-one money management counseling.
Tim Bakula, associate director of financial aid, said about half of the three-week fall courses, which will mostly be taught by graduate assistants, are already full.
"We think that student-to-student component is essential," Bakula said.
Student leaders agree the counseling and education are much needed in the college curriculum. Joel Anderson, the Northern Iowa Student Government president, believes that all students should be required to take some financial literacy course during their first semester of college. Though Anderson thinks regulating credit cards through 21 is excessive, he believes it might be necessary until more students can be educated on the pitfalls of credit cards.
"The fact that the majority of college students have an average of 4.9 credit cards is just insane," he said. "This legislation is just going to force more 'you buy, you pay' situations. And that's not bad. I have friends who only need an $8,000 school loan but they take out the full $14,000 offered and buy flat screens or new cars."
Morrow said that behavior is exactly what they are hoping to eradicate with this effort. Though the school has significantly decreased the amount of private money students borrow -- it's down from $15 million to $3.6 million in just three years -- many students are still living outside their means and borrowing to cover the costs, she said.
"Students don't need flat-screen TVs or new cars or Coach bags. They need to live like students now so they don't have to later," she said.