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How Extreme Credit Card Debt Can Happen to the Smartest College Students

When my niece moved to our town to go to college she gave her university our home as her permanent address. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to experience something I had little knowledge about.

Over the course of several months I received dozens of calls a week from credit card companies offering my niece her own credit card. I was shocked! Not only were credit card companies trying to give my unemployed college student niece her very own credit card, there were at least five of them forcing their credit on her.

All she had to do is say “yes” over the phone. When she did not return their calls, because I did not deliver their messages, for obvious reasons, they started sending her credit card offers by mail. The interest rate was a whooping 24% on most of them. They placed it boldly on the front of the offer as though that were something good.

Then I figured out why, to a college student, that was something good, since it represented what they consider “free credit.” Free credit meaning, offers without a job and without requesting it. My niece never saw the offers; I do not deliver vile or cryptic messages of any type.

I received a priceless education. In the past, credit card companies set up a table at the university and paid college age kids, who were not in college, to sell their college credit cards.

When popular talk shows covered stories of college students graduating and filing bankruptcy on credit card balances as high as $50,000 the college campus tables disappeared. Later on, the companies obtained phone numbers and mailing list of the college students.

My niece was only a freshman when they started recruiting her into a life of hopeless debt. I wonder how they got her number? It made me furious to think that universities are selling the mailing list of their students, but what other way could all of those companies have gotten her information.

Credit card companies are constantly looking for new ways to expand their business. The debt industry is one of the most profitable industries in this country. Every time you charge an item on a credit card and subsequently pay interest month after month, you are helping the debt industry and hindering your ability to purchase items at or below market rates. Or, put another way, you are paying more, and more, and more for an item every time you pay another monthly interest charge. Teach your child not to fall into this credit card trap before he/she enters college.

Dr. Lois Center-Shabazz is the author of the award-winning book “Let’s Get Financial Savvy! From Debt-Free to Investing With Ease” ISBN #0971979502, and the founder of the critically acclaimed personal finance website, She is available for interview and to speak to your organization.