Give us a little more credit
New attempts to protect students from debt will only hurt them in the long run
· June 4, 2009, 11:28 am · Updated May 28, 2009, 12:00 am
Credit cards can be dangerous — between identity theft, hidden fees, and insurmountable debt, there is much for students to fear on their path to fiscal independence. Thanks to freecreditreport.com commercials, students can hear credit horror stories time and time again, all set to a painfully catchy tune.
With a new piece of legislation moving through Congress, known as The Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights, the Obama administration is hoping to protect the American people from these pitfalls.
The majority of the bill pulls in the reins on credit card companies that have been abusing their customers’ rights with interest rate hikes and hidden fees for far too long. However, one part of the proposed legislation would limit consumers rather than protect them.
The bill would exclude anyone under 21 from obtaining a credit card without a parent, legal guardian or spouse as primary cardholder. With proof of income, those under 21 can petition for an exception.
This would prevent college students from establishing credit, and ultimately, financial independence. Currently, responsible student cardholders can parlay low-limit credit cards into solid credit scores by the time they graduate. Under the proposed bill, this would no longer be an option.
Furthermore, the plan would only strengthen the atmosphere of fiscal irresponsibility that already permeates college life. Look no further than bursar and meal plans to see that college students do very little when it comes to budgeting their lives. Students need to learn these lessons early on, so that they might avoid drowning in debt later in life.
Rather than passing laws that border on parenting, the government should help students avoid the dangers of debt while teaching them responsible fiscal skills. Instead of preventing students from signing up for credit cards, legislators should aim to lower credit limits and interest rates on students’ cards. That way, students will have the opportunity to practice fiscal responsibility with more limited risk.