Arizona Daily Wildcat
Companies lure students with free shirts, guaranteed credit
Amidst waves of local bands, campus clubs and religious preachers, they are there - the free T-shirts promised for only five minutes of time and a credit card application.
Each year, 10 to 12 companies are scheduled to appear the UA Mall, and each of these are charged $100 per day by the university.
"It's a captive audience," said Diane Newman, office specialist in charge of scheduling Mall events.
"Most students sign-up for the free T-shirts and then cut up the card," she said. "But they also need to call the company and cancel."
According to a Web site for Nellie Mae, a student lending and financial advising company, 60 percent of undergraduates have credit cards and carry an average balance of $1,863.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences plans to partner with Students In Free Enterprise to create Credit Wise Cats, a program that will aim to help students learn about credit cards.
Linda Block, an assistant agent in cooperative extension for UA, researched trends in student credit for the program's proposal.
"According to national statistics, it is very easy for students to get overextended," she said. "They fail to make timely payments, and their credit rating becomes the big issue."
However, Block recommended that students have at least one card in order to establish credit.
"There are advantages - just don't abuse it," she said. "Have one card, pay on time, don't carry a balance and budget how much you can afford."
For the credit card companies who visit UA, students represent a new market of potential customers.
"We get about 2,000 to 3,000 students signing up each month," said Duryan Durocher, member development coordinator for Arizona Federal Credit Union.
Of these students, many are getting into debt - the average age for filing bankruptcy is 25, he said.
"In general they are having problems," Durocher said. "I attribute it to one, not knowing about credit and two, having access to more cards."
Kristin Boyd, an accounting sophomore, had to take out a loan in order to pay off her credit card debt.
"I spent money on food and clothes - it's so easy to get the card," she said. "I won't do it again."
Though her own experiences were negative, Boyd offered advice to other students.
"Don't use the card unless you can use it responsibly," she said. "Otherwise call the next day and cancel."
Upon graduation, students carry an average $12,000 in debt, according to the Nellie Mae Web site. This debt comes from student loans and, of course, credit cards.
In light of these statistics, other students remained cautious about signing up.
"I have never done it," said Reno DePaoli, a marketing junior. "The biggest catch is the free stuff, and I'm wary about that because the stuff is pretty shoddy."