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CREDIT CARDS ON CAMPUS:
Current Trends and Informational Deficiencies

Summary
This paper was originally released at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on June 8, 1999; the press conference was sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America. Based on over three years of primary research, the study features a unique set of comparative data that includes more than 350 in-depth interviews (over 300 undergraduate and over 50 graduate students) and more than 400 surveys among students enrolled in Metropolitan Washington, D.C. universities.

The report examines the intensifying financial pressures on American college students, decline in federal student grants, and the escalating cost of higher education. The result has been that colleges have encouraged students to increase their borrowing levels and they have at unprecedented levels. Accordingly, credit card companies have taken advantage of the needs/desires of college students and consent of university administrators by aggressively marketing “plastic money.”

The report critically analyzes the available studies of college credit card trends. It concludes that the credit card industry systematically understates total credit card debt among college students as well as its social consequences--family conflicts, dropping out of school, losing scholarships and financial aid, job rejections, bankruptcy, and even suicide. It shows that the impact is especially severe among students from low and moderate income families--especially racial and ethnic minorities.

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CREDIT CARDS ON CAMPUS:
Current Trends and Informational Deficiencies

Table of Contents
Section   Page
I INTRODUCTION: ‘Plastic Money for Real People’
5
II FROM PART-TIME JOBS TO FULL-TIME DEBT: The Political Economy of Middle-Class Indenturement
6
III
RESEARCH DESIGN, METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES, AND PROJECT DATA
10
IV STUDENT CREDIT CARDS: Findings and Limitations of Empirical Studies
17
     
Tables
1 Student Credit Card Accounts: Class Standing by Corporate Brand (1998)
24
2 First Credit Card Account: Class Standing of Student by Year of Survey (1994 and 1998)
25
     
Appendices
A Spiraling Cost of Higher Education: Room, Board, and Tuition at American University (1975-98)
26
B Undergraduate Surveys: Frequency Distributions of Georgetown and Maryland Samples
27
C Undergraduate Interviews: Frequency Distributions of American, Georgetown, Maryland Samples
29
     
 
Bibliography
31
     

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