How College Students Are Taught Personal Finance by Credit Card Companies

If you have attending college in the past 10 years, it’s likely you keenly remember receiving about 20 pre-approval credit card offers your first semester. And gauging by the numerous emails I receive daily on the subject of credit card debt due to college, it’s likely you applied and received a few of those credit cards. In fact, it was the credit card debt I accumulated in college that served as a catalyst for my credit disaster.


Credit card companies, like cigarette companies, are smart when it comes to luring in potential lifelong customers when they are young and vulnerable. They cleverly setup booths on college campuses, give out free stuff like t-shirts and book bags, and mail students letters aimed to create a subtle hint of pride within. The statements usually say something such as, “You’re in college now! It’s time to start building you’re credit history!” How kind of them to notice and look out for my future. It’s quite alluring.

Students are obviously a good target. They are likely far away from their caution-invoking parents, don’t have a full-time job, need money for food and beer, and may or may not be financially educated. I could name a dozen more logical reasons why students are good targets for credit card companies, but I want to put at least some restraint on your ability to write, “duh!” in this article’s comments.

Universities are banning credit card companies from marketing on campus

There are has been some progress to limit credit card companies ability to market directly to student on campus. An article over at Bankrate says that some 300 universities have banned it altogether. While this is mildly encouraging, it doesn’t address any real plausible solution –again, clever marketing folks will find an equally successful way to grab students.

Financial responsibility should be taught in high school

I didn’t learn very much useful information in high school. In fact, I remember arguing to my algebra teacher in the 11th grade that I ought not be required to learn algebra, for I’d never sincerely have much use for it in my adulthood. I was pretty much right. God, how I wish they would have required a personal finance class. Had I been taught even the basics of personal finance, such as how compound interest can be good or bad for me, I honestly might have made some better decisions.

Some may bravely venture to postulate such arguments as, “you were taught sexual education in school, did you honestly take that seriously –do you think, in high school, you would take personal finance seriously?” Hell yes I would have taken it seriously. Two particular subjects, as I remember, seemed to occupy most of my thoughts in high school: sex and being rich. Of course I am not going to take sex ed seriously, for why would I listen to someone tell me not have sex when that’s all I want to do. However, had I been exposed to the mechanisms that enable building wealth, I would have ate it up. Furthermore, I would have retained it.

Let it be known that I am a badgering advocate of personal responsibility. However, in the real world, college in and of itself is difficult enough, and without much pervious knowledge or exposure to personal finance and credit, students will make mistakes that cause great future difficulties. These difficulties cannot be avoided by legislation banning the marketing of credit card to people under 21 as some lawmakers have purposed.

If schools cannot be depended upon, I am not opposed to the societal agreement being that parents ought to teach their children about finance. Perhaps the current epoch is such, but I am willing to bet that most parents don’t give the subject much thought. Personal finance certainly does not enjoy the same status as the infamous “Son, you’re at the age when you may be having strange but pleasurable thoughts about girls…”. Well, perhaps it ought to.


  1. Avatar Diana December 2, 2007
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