Student Credit Card Debt: A Survival Guide for Students

College is the last care free step before real life begins, or at least it should be. Students should be able to go to sleep each night with the only pressing responsibility being the English exam tomorrow morning. They should still get to live in a world where although they can’t afford much more than the occasional late night drive through Taco Bell or downloading the latest hit single, at least they aren’t worrying yet about paying a mortgage, most forms of insurance, utility bills, or the college loan that is allowing them to get an education.

Unfortunately, for many college students this is not the case. Many are already burdened with financial pressure because they are accruing credit card debt, in some cases over $7,000 worth of it. Increasingly, students are even coming to campus with credit card debt in hand. Consolidated Credit Counseling Services Inc. reports that 20% of freshman got their credit card in high school and nearly 40% sign up for one in their first year at college. With the abundance of on-campus, mail and Internet card offers giving low introductory rates, freebies, and bonus airline miles, it’s not surprising to find that according to a 2001 Nellie Mae study 83% of all undergraduate students have at least one credit card and carry an average balance of $2,327.

The problem of high credit card debt has many implications for a student. Some end up dropping out of college all together so they can work full-time just to pay credit card bills. If they are able to stay in school, but have in the process ruined their credit rating, it can affect their ability to rent an apartment, afford insurance and even get the job that will help them to pay off their debt. Even relationships suffer as a result of financial stress. There is also a psychological affect on students. The stress can lead students into depression, and in a few cases has been a contributing factor to suicide.

Of course it hasn’t always been like this. According to Dr. Robert D. Manning, Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology and author of Credit Card Nation, in the late 1980s student credit card limits were around $300-$500 and parents were required to co-sign. But when credit card companies began making a lot of money during the 1991 economic recession, they started looking for new markets and found it in the student population. Issuers dropped the co-signing requirement and started raising limits, which, when combined with parents’ increasing financial pressures and higher costs of education, gave students a way to fund themselves through college.

And students are an easy market to tap into. In his article “Credit Cards on Campus,” Manning writes, “Credit card companies encourage fantasies of easy money because students are so profitable: teens have financial naiveté, high material expectations, and responsiveness to relatively low-cost marketing campaigns, high potential earnings, and future demand for financial services.”

Credit companies advertising to the vulnerabilities of young students is not the only factor that goes into the current trend. Most students simply have not received the education in personal finances and credit card management that they need to meet the onslaught of offers. According to Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, Inc only 15% of high school students take a personal finance class. And, according to the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, a non-profit organization which promotes financial literacy at the K-12 level, parents for a variety of reasons are not talking to their children about the privilege and responsibility that goes along with using a credit card.

Dr. Carol Carolan, Executive Director and Founder of the Center for Student Credit Card Education, says that the single best thing parents can do to help their children avoid the pitfalls of credit card debt is educate them. Parents need to talk to their children about it early on and regularly. Dr. Carolan suggests the following tips for parents.
When a child has reached an appropriate level of maturity and understanding of personal finances, co-signing a credit card can be very beneficial.
Get a credit card with a low limit and no annual fees (visit the “Card Reports” section of our website to comparison shop for student credit cards).
Discuss with your child the details of the credit card including interest rate on purchases and cash advances.
Review all the expenses every month.
Show your child what finance charges might apply if the balance is not paid in full and on time. This includes any interest, fees, and penalties.
Be a good role model.

Experts don’t all agree on the appropriate age for a first credit card. Dr. Manning, for instance, argues in his article Credit Cards on Campus that having them at an earlier age may actually result in fewer debt problems later on.” Other experts argue that waiting until the junior or senior year in college is best. The bottom line parents need to realize is that once students reach the college campus, they will be inundated with credit card offers and will be able to get a card regardless if they are supported financially solely by their parents.

And talking with students involves more than mere calculations of fees, interest rates, and balances. Students need to understand the messages they receive through advertising, the difference between a want and a need, as well as the lure of money. Give students a healthy, realistic perspective of money and material possessions and they will be better equipped to make wise decisions.

Universities and colleges play a huge role in the current trend of high student credit card debt. Some invite credit card issuers onto campus because they receive revenue as well. But others are starting to recognize the problem and are restricting the activities of credit card companies on campuses. Manning states in his book Credit Card Nation, that “During the academic year 1999-2000, over 400 colleges and universities formulated official policies against on-campus credit card marketing and nearly 600 other schools are considering similar restrictions.”

Some institutions like Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the University of Central (UCA) Arkansas are even beginning to require classes in personal and consumer finances. Mary Ann Campbell, CFP, professor of personal finance at UCA and professional speaker with Money Magic, Inc., has a mission to educate students, educators, and adults about money. She is currently working on her dissertation about college students and credit card debt. Campbell is researching the best methods of reaching college students through a high impact presentation warning them of the perils and privileges of plastic. Like other experts, Campbell is not against students having credit cards. In fact, she says it is easier to get one as a student and can help them build the good credit history needed after graduation. But students do need to be educated. Campbell gives the following tips and reminders for students.
There is true magic to compound interest when it’s working for you (as in an investment or savings account), but true devastation when it’s working against you (as in credit card debt). Even when you buy something on sale, the interest alone can double the price.
Account for everything. Keep records of each credit card including the interest rates, fees, balances, due dates and purchases. Campbell suggests a good way to do this is to setup a spreadsheet in Excel. This will also keep you organized so you don’t miss another payment.
The only way to get out of debt is to stop charging and always pay more than the minimum. If more than one credit card has an outstanding balance, then begin paying off the one with the highest interest rate first, then go to the next highest interest card, and so on.
If in trouble, talk about it with someone you trust and respect. This could be a parent, teacher, or friend. Hiding it doesn’t make it go away.
Credit scores can make all the difference in the world for good or bad. It can take many years to recover from a bad credit score.
Learning to use credit cards responsibly is a gift. Seek to gain knowledge and wisdom. Credit is a privilege and it is the student’s personal responsibility not to let it become a peril. Campbell says, “The magic comes from you.”
While in college, students need to think outside the box, but live financially within the box.

Credit cards can be an invaluable tool for a student. While providing security and convenience, if used wisely a student will build the good credit rating that is needed to secure other consumer loans, jobs, and lower insurance rates after graduation. Dwayne Blew, a member of CreditBoards, a forum dedicated to credit issues, is one example of a student who didn’t buy things he didn’t need and paid his credit card balance in full each month during college. Now he is reaping the benefits of a good credit score. Dwayne says, “One of the reasons you’re going to college is to improve your lifestyle once you graduate. After putting so much effort into school, why let something small like a credit card end up ruining it all?”

Many excellent resources exist to help students both avoid and get out of the credit card debt trap.
Comparing credit cards is an important step in finding the best one to suit your needs. CardRatings.com makes this search simple and easy by allowing you to research the best rated student credit cards.
Consider utilizing the services of a nonprofit credit counseling service. Be very careful when considering a credit counseling service, though, as many counseling services are scams, including nonprofit services.
Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, Inc. has a free, downloadable Budgeting Guide for students.
Dr. Carolan has written a booklet titled The ABCs of Credit Card Finance – Essential Facts for Students that can be ordered online and it will be mailed to individuals free of charge.
Message boards or forums are a great source of information. You can post questions, concerns, or comments and a real person will respond with real life information. Campbell says they are a gift and can even become a support group. You can join the CardRatings.com Message Board for free.
Even if your school doesn’t require a personal finance class, take one if it’s offered.

Rural First Responders Offered Homeland Security Training From Domestic Preparedness Consortium

Most attention and much of the resources for all-hazards preparedness and response have been focused on urban areas. Enter the Rural Domestic Preparedness Consortium (RDPC), which was developed to ensure that rural first responders have a continuous resource for their training and preparedness needs. Its goal is also to ensure that rural first responders are up to speed on timely and relevant training and response information, as well as best practices.

Now this consortium is preparing a series of Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-certified training courses for rural stakeholders to be offered at no charge across the nation.

“Our country is still in a mode of concentrating training resources toward potential large-scale events that might occur in urban areas,” said Gary Wingrove, chair of the advisory board to the RDPC and manager of Government Relations and Strategic Affairs for The Mayo Clinic Medical Transport in Buffalo, Minn. “The consortium is concentrating on creating curricula centered around the support role of rural responders to urban events, as well as an all-hazards approach more suited to rural communities for the more typical types of events we might be called upon to manage directly.”

Eastern Kentucky University’s (EKU’s) Justice and Safety Center leads the consortium, and partners include East Tennessee State University, Iowa Central Community College, Northwest Arkansas Community College and the University of Findlay in Ohio.

The DHS/Federal Emergency Management Agency Training and Education Division awarded the consortium and a Rural Domestic Preparedness Training Center at EKU with $14.1 million since fiscal 2004, and EKU applied for an additional $12 million in grants.

The consortium’s first order of business was to identify gaps in training for rural homeland security. Each consortium partner conducted a regional forum, the RDPC mailed out a national needs assessment survey, and in September 2007, the consortium convened a National Rural Emergency Preparedness Summit in Omaha, Neb.

Jo Brosius, director of communications at EKU’s Justice and Safety Center, said several pilot training courses are scheduled to begin before the end of 2007. They include Special Event Security Planning for Law Enforcement, developed by the Rural Domestic Preparedness Training Center; Freight Rail Car Incident Response; and Port and Vessel Security for Public Safety Personnel, both developed by the University of Findlay.

“We all feel that we are addressing a gap in a national need,” said Mark Alliman, RDPC program manager for the University of Findlay. “As we start rolling these courses out, it will be a lot more evident that we are addressing those gaps and training needs.”

Training Needs

The RDPC sent out nearly 3,200 surveys about all-hazards homeland security training needs in summer 2006, and almost 1,000 completed surveys were returned by rural officials in the fields of law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, public health and general local government.

Planning for terrorism events was identified as the primary training need across all stakeholder groups. However, each group had different priorities. The highest-rated training need for each group was:

Law enforcement – responder safety and health.
Fire service – citizen preparedness and participation.
Emergency medical service – chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, explosives (CBRNE) detection.
Public health – planning for terrorism events.
General government – weapons of mass destruction/hazardous materials response and decontamination.

It was no surprise that every discipline has significant unmet training needs, Brosius said. “If there were any surprises, it would be that each discipline identified a different area as its top priority in terms of the number of personnel needing training,” he said.

The survey results showed that the general government sector has the greatest need for training among all the groups. The RDPC notes that government officials are not often considered first responders: “But oftentimes it is the local mayor, county judge/executive, or city manager who is one of the first officials to address the media and the general public.” They are also often the primary contacts for state and federal assistance.

The RDPC plans to follow up with a more detailed survey of general government officials’ needs, work with national associations representing this group, and explore adapting existing training curriculum to the needs of general government officials.

The consortium reports that rural first responders prefer local, hands-on training, although they are generally willing to participate in online and video-conference training sessions.

The RDPC plans to make the National Rural Emergency Preparedness Summit an annual event, to be held in rural communities across the country. Participants in the first summit identified and prioritized 15 critical areas for the RDPC to focus on. The recommendations include evacuation and quarantine, agroterrorism, interoperable communications, surviving the first 48 hours, and post-incident responder and family care.

“Training is something you should do continuously, but it’s difficult, especially when you look at volunteers,” Alliman said. “And that’s just a fact of rural America. We need to let folks like that know that RDPC is there, and we have listened to them, and we’re putting good training programs together to help address their needs.”

General Requirements for Homeschooling

Each state has its own general requirements for homeschoooling students. There are four categories of legal options for homeschooling. The four categories are: states requiring no notice, states with low regulation, moderate regulation and high regulation.

Many of the regulations include parental notification, test scores, professional evaluation of student progress and curriculum approval. Families shouldn’t be scared off by the general requirements for homeschooling. There may be some initial paperwork to handle but as long as the teaching parent can keep good records there shouldn’t be andy fear of the state stepping in and ordering your child back to public school.

The states that have no requirements for homeschooling do not require the parents to initiate any contact. These states include Idaho, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Connecticut, New Jersey and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. Parents are not obligated to contact the school districts to notify them that they will be homeschooling their children.

States that have low general requirements for homeschooling require the parents to notify the school district that they are homeschooling their children and nothing else. These states include California, Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Delaware, Washington D.C. and the territory of the Virgin Islands.

Moderately regulated states require parents to send notification, test scores and provide a professional evaluation of the student’s progress. The states in this category include Oregon, Colorado, South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Maryland and the territories of American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands.

States with the highest regulations may be the most troublesome to parents contemplating homeschooling. These states general requirements for homeschooling stipulate parents have to send notification or achievement test scores, provide professional evaluations of student progress as well as provide a written curriculum that needs to be approved by the state, teacher qualification of the parents and on some occasions visits by state officials to check the student’s progress. These states include Washington, Utah, North Dakota, Minnesota, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. These states have few requirements for the Kindergarten level but the regulations become stricter at each subsequent grade level.

A parent is considered competent to operate a homeschool if they follow the individual state’s regulations; they do not need to have teacher certification. The parents need to file a notice at their local school that they intend to homeschool in the low to highly regulated states. Those that fall within the medium to highly regulated states will also need to keep attendance records, file quarterly reports and a grade narrative for each of the subjects taught. Highly regulated states may require an annual assessment at the end of the school year.

The general requirements for homeschool vary greatly from state to state. The parents should be well versed in the legal aspects of homeschooling before they decide to attempt it. Most parents will find that the red tape at the beginning is well worth it.

To stay abreast of the current trends, information and resources available for homeschool parents, teachers and students subscribe to Homeschool Success News.

If you need an online tutor, courseware or wish to offer your services as a paid online tutor contact our website. Magic Learning Systems also provides excellent products to enhance the homeschool experience for teachers and students. For additional information visit the Homeschool Success News website.

How Can You Tell If A College Offering A Distance Learning Degree Is Legitimate?

Are you considering getting your college degree online? But not sure how you can tell if the college offering the degree is legitimate?

Online courses and online degree programs continue to grow in popularity. But just because they are popular, and just because the name of the college sounds good, does not necessarily make them legitimate.

On the other hand, just because you have not heard of a college does not mean it is not completely legitimate.

The Internet has transformed the way students learn, and the way you can get a degree. You can earn a degree from virtually any college in America without ever stepping foot on campus. But that means you need to make sure the time, effort, and money you put into earning your college degree is worthwhile.

So, how can you tell if the college offering the degree is legitimate?

By checking the college’s accreditation.

Make sure that the college you are considering is accredited by one of the six regional accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S Department of Education. These agencies grant public and private universities their accreditation.

Unfortunately there are many accrediting agencies that are not “official”. And while colleges accredited by these unofficial agencies may still provide you with a quality education, you won’t be able to obtain Federal Financial Aid or transfer your credits to an officially accredited college. And you may find that certain employers won’t accept the degree, and therefore won’t hire you.

Here are the six regional accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S Department of Education. If your college is listed, get out the books and start studying!

New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) Accredits schools in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) Accredits schools in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSCHE) Accredits schools in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) Accredits schools in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Accredits schools in California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Basin.
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) Accredits schools in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

How to Be Sure Your Certification is Accredited

With the rising popularity of distance education, especially over the internet, the awareness of the factors effecting distance education is very important in order to reap the best benefits of this new education medium. Accreditation is important as it is meant to protect students and employers as well as genuine institutions. An outside body, authorized by the government accredits institutions that meet criteria, ensuring that institutions are teaching their students and meeting standards of quality. An accredited certificate is recognized by employers and institutions of higher education as being genuine.

Accreditation must also be from a recognized source. ‘Accreditation mills’ of a dubious nature also seek to sell accreditation illegally and falsify facts. Make sure that your online school is accredited by an agency recognized by either the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA); these named organizations maintain lists of accreditation bodies that are trusted and authorized to do so. The following is a list of regional accreditation bodies which are recognized officially.

Watch out for Diploma mills! These are notorious and a main cause for concern for genuine students and employers as these are schools which sell certificates and degrees requiring almost no schoolwork from their ‘students’ and hence, almost always do not confirm to quality standards.

New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)

For schools in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement(NCA)

Accredits schools in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Navajo Nation, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA)

Accredits schools in Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Central America, Europe, and the Middle East.

Southern Association of Schools and Colleges (SACS)

Accredits schools in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Latin America.

Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)

Accredits schools in California, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Palau, Micronesia, Northern Marianas, Marshall Islands, and other Australasian locations.

Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NWCCU)

Accredits schools in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

A degree or certificate earned from any institution accredited by one of the above bodies is considered valid and competitive.

Distance Education Training Council (DETC) is a recognized body that accredits online schools. This accreditation body is also recognized by the USDE and CHEA and is recognized by most employers as well, however, DETC accreditation is not as widely acceptable in comparison to the above mentioned regional accreditation bodies. Additionally, some regionally accredited schools do not trust or allow transfers of credits from schools accredited by DETC and so prospective students must be careful in their selection and should consult a guidance councilor beforehand and check the United States Department of Education (USDE) database for information and lists of institutions which are accredited officially.