College students need to manage debt carefully

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College students have enough problems as it is: exams, term papers, work and if they have time, a social life. With all these other stressors, credit card debt should not be a major problem — but often it is.

More than 83 percent of undergraduate students have at least one credit card, according to the Nellie Mae Corporation, the nation’s largest provider of student loans.

“I own seven or eight credit cards from over the past year,” said Heather Mangal, a sophomore design major.

The average undergraduate student has $2,200 in credit card debt, according to Nellie Mae.

Despite the fact that many college students have one or more credit cards, many don’t understand how to keep track of their line of credit.

In 2003, the U.S. Senate designated April as Financial Literacy for Youth Month to highlight the need for education in money management for young adults and to help them with credit and debt problems.

This year, Visa and the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) joined forces to create a new Web site to help improve financial literacy among college students.

The Web site,, offers free credit score estimates from FICO. It also provides guidelines for buying a car, renting an apartment and other basic money management skills for college students.

“If a person can manage college I feel they can manage credit,” said Craig Watts, a FICO public relations representative.

FICO is a consulting services and decision management system that has developed the FICO scores, which is a measure of credit risk.

FICO scores are the most popularly used credit scores in the world, Watts said.

According to, credit is the numerical value calculated and used by creditors to determine whether to give people credit options. Average credit scores are between 600 and 700. Higher scores reflect better credit.

“College students need to know how to mange a credit card because how you handle credit has consequences for many parts of your life,” Watts said.

In order to lower your debt and create better credit you must take the proper steps by not making late payments, only taking on new accounts when they are needed and keeping your balance low, Watts said.

“Anyone who owns a credit card should know the basic rules for it,” Watts said.

Yet some college students still feel that having a credit card right now is something they don’t need.

“I don’t really feel that it’s necessary for me to have one,” said Ryan Heilala, a sophomore psychology major. “If I did, I would just use it for emergency purpose anyway.”