Saturday, April 26, 2008

Banning Credit Card Solicitation on College Campuses

Last week the Tennessee State Senate Education Committee unanimously passed legislation out of their committee that would ban credit card solicitations on State college campuses. The bill grew out of concern about students graduating with large credit card debt.

As a housing counselor a lot of what I do actually has little to do with housing directly. A lot of my job is counseling people on credit repair, budgeting and money management skills. I know first-hand how inept many people are at managing their finances. I have often encountered college dropouts or recent college graduates with very large credit card debt in addition to their student loans. I know that credit cards are heavily marketed to students who do not even have incomes. Credit card companies offer inducement such as free backpacks or other give- aways to students to get them to accept a free credit card. Apparently most lenders make money off of making the credit cards available to students or they would no longer do it.

I share the concern of the State legislators. Many 18-year-olds, away from home for the first time may not have the maturity to turn down an offered credit card. However, the days of colleges being in loco parentis are long gone. The application of that principle has largely disappeared from higher education. In the modern college dorm no one is keeping the boys and girls separated. If your teen-age daughter gets pregnant you cannot sue the university. Universities are required to treat 18 year olds as adults.

Like it or not, at age 18 a person is an adult. An 18 year old may vote, may choose to get an abortion, may shake up with a member of the opposite sex, may get married, may purchase a car, may enter into contracts, may change religions, may drop out of college, may move across the country, and may join the military. About the only thing they cannot do that other adults can do is legally purchase alcohol. I am not so sure that the state should protect 18 year olds from credit card solicitors.

If parents have not trained their children to make wise decision before they turn 18 then I think by the age of 18 it is too late. With Tennessee second in the nation for personal bankruptcy, apparently a lot of children are not learning money management skills at home. If parents are not teaching their children well, then the state my have a roll to play, but that should be while the child is still in high school. Currently Tennessee offers an elective to high school students in personal finances. I would support making it mandatory.

In colleges however, I think we need to recognize that college students are adults. Along with the rights of being an adult, comes the responsibilities and paying the consequences for making poor decisions. We can only go so far in protecting adults from their own foolish behavior. An 18 year old should be free to make stupid decisions.

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