The Other College Debt

You want something and you'd rather not wait. You're bombarded with "special," shouldn't-be-missed credit-card offers. You're so accustomed to living off credit - and watching other people live off credit - that it's hard to change the habit.

That may describe a lot of us. That it describes so many young people - college students, even teens - is particularly troubling, if not particularly new. Credit-card companies have been marketing to students (freshmen and sophomores seem to be favorite targets) for about 15 years, more aggressively in the past few years.

The argument is that college students have good earning potential. And if they get in trouble financially, their parents will be there to bail them out. In other words, they're good credit risks. The reality is that most college students have no income, little experience with credit, and often large student loan debts on top of what they're charging on their cards.

Wisely, some colleges and even some credit-card companies are taking a page from credit and debt counseling services and are beginning to educate students about managing their money and paying off debt. That task also should go to parents. Credit advisers say parents should sit down with their children, draw up a budget, and figure out who will pay for what and where the money will come from. Good advice.

Meanwhile, more credit-card companies, we hope, will realize that their efforts to entice young adults to charge and charge often have gone too far. At the same time, we all should be more aware of our own spending - and charging - habits. By embracing the philosophy "buy now, hopefully pay later," too many Americans are sending the wrong message to kids.

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