How Universities And Credit Card Companies Make Money Off Of Students

How can an educational institute act in its students’ best interest if it stands to make money off of increasing their debt load? The symbiotic relationship between universities and credit card companies is being questioned more than ever by student groups and politicians, writes the New York Times.

Universities say the contracts bring in badly needed funds, although the example in the article—$8.4 million over 7 years to Michigan State in exchange for students’ names and addresses—seems hardly worth it once you consider the long term damage done to unprepared students who enmesh themselves in debt, or the black mark against Michigan State now that the public knows that it sold off student contact info.

Banks say they cap credit cards at $2,500, but that’s hardly a “low” credit limit for what are essentially unemployed or part-time employeed customers. The Times cites a US PIRG survey that found graduating “seniors with balances had an average debt of $2,623 on their cards.”

A spokesman for Michigan State gives the paper an unintentionally telling quote about their concern for students:

“It provides money for scholarships and other programs,” said Terry R. Livermore, manager of licensing programs at Michigan State. He said that the program was aimed primarily at alumni and the university would not include sharing student information in future credit card contracts. “The students are such a minuscule portion of this program.”

But of course none of this would matter if students knew better than to exchange their future financial independence for items as trivial as a tshirt, mug, or blanket. Yes, blanket:

Abigail D. Molina, a second-year law student at the University of Oregon, applied in 2007 for a Chase Visa offered at a tent outside a football game. In exchange, she received a blanket. “I mostly wanted the blanket,” Ms. Molina said.

Please, do not be like Ms. Molina (or like me—I made the same stupid choices in college). Meg’s “10 Commandments of Credit” is a good place to start for advice on how to approach credit cards and consumer debt.

“Colleges Profit as Banks Market Credit Cards to Students” [New York Times]

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