Credit Wise Cats counsel UA students on proper card use

By Alexandria Blute
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Whether shopping on East University Boulevard, buying your books or noshing on a late night burrito, you've got no worries. "Just put it on the card," you say.

But, if you're like some college students, purchasing with plastic might signal big trouble ahead.

According to The Associated Press, a recent study conducted by the Nellie Mae student loan agency showed nearly one-third of all college seniors carry up to $7,000 in credit card debt.

The agency also found that students tend to accumulate more credit cards with each consecutive year of college.

On campus, a student-run group is on a mission to educate students about smart spending and financial planning.

UA's Credit Wise Cats said they counsel people with practically any financial woe through a series of group workshops or one-on-one meetings.

Credit Wise Cats, a group of 10 UA students of various ages and academic backgrounds, offer their services for free to anyone who requests them.

The Credit Wise Cats, who are sponsored by Take Charge America, a Phoenix-based nonprofit organization, are a branch of the campus group Students in Free Enterprise, or SIFE.

Marcia Klipsch, the assistant director of the Center for Retailing and Consumer Sciences and faculty advisor to the Credit Wise Cats, said group members are to offer real aid to students with credit problems.

"The beauty of the program is that it's peer-to-peer, which makes a big difference in how people pay attention," Klipsch said.

UA students said they thought more students could benefit from learning a thing or two about wise money management.

Erica Luna, a pre-pharmacy sophomore, said while she has managed to stay out of debt during college, some of her friends are not so lucky.

"I have one friend that's in really bad credit card debt. He has like, 10 credit cards," Luna said.

And while students said credit cards and subsequent debt are rampant on campus, many are choosing not to use cards to stay debt-free.

Taylor Genovese, a history freshman, said he does not use credit cards because he worries about accumulating bills he can't pay. He said carrying plastic creates temptation to buy too much.

"It's too easy to have that spending power," Genovese said.

Students also said young people who use a parent's card don't appreciate the power of credit as much as those who pay their own bill.

Tara Hornung, who graduated from UA as a studio art major, said she pays attention to her credit card purchases because she pays her own bill every month.

"Putting $30 on a card means a lot if you have to work 5 hours to pay off that $30," she said.

Juan Ciscomani, SIFE co-president and Credit Wise Cat, said learning personal finance can impact a person's entire life.

"If you give someone a fish, they'll eat for a day. If you teach them to fish, they'll eat for a lifetime," said the political science senior. He said the group reached 1,746 students last year.

Michael Pockuba, a pre-architecture freshman, said he attended a workshop held by the Cats and learned helpful information about basic financial planning.

"It was really informative," he said adding that he rarely uses his credit card.

"I'll only use it if I can pay it off at the end of the month," Pockuba said.

Ciscomani said seeing people change their unhealthy financial habits is gratifying.

"They were so much in debt before we helped them and after they have a surplus in their savings account," he said. "It feels great."

To set up a workshop with the Credit Wise Cats, contact Klipsch at 520-621-3403 or at