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<< News >>

National News

Friday, 11 April, 2008 2:05 PM

Many College Students Graduate Bankrupt

It's all about students not learning simple financial skills early, notes Stephen A. Epstein, founder of DollarCamp

 

Graphic courtesy of students.ou.edu

 

SAN FRANCISCO -- Graduating from college with honors and full of high hopes for the future is a prevailing American dream. But some of these dreams are turning into financial nightmares when graduates find out that they are literally bankrupt -- that they owe much more money than they are worth at the end of their college life.

The cause is the credit card. It is the chilling but familiar story of students getting way over their heads in credit card debt the day they arrive on campus. New and naive students are bombarded with credit card offers, despite many having student loans and little or no income. A student can hardly walk on to a college campus these days without getting seduced, or harassed, by some promoter peddling free t-shirts and gift certificates just for signing up for a piece of plastic. Often the teaser rate is 0%, but skyrockets to 20% or 30% after a few months. At those rates, it is easy to drown in red ink.

These students are definitely taking the bait, for 50% graduate with $5,000 or more of high interest credit card debt. And excessively high interest payments keep coming month after month just when they can least afford it. Then, establishing good credit is even more difficult.

Why are students falling for this predatory lending? The reason is simple -- they don't know any better. No one ever sat them down and explained the financial facts of life; how credit cards work and why they can be dangerous. Same goes for credit scores and budgeting. Kids don't learn it at school. Many parents try to talk to their kids but any parent knows how effective that is.

DollarCamp, a San Francisco-based company, is doing something about this financial mess through its crash course on financial literacy for high school and college kids. DollarCamp' program focuses on teaching kids basic budgeting skills and tips for staying out of financial trouble.

"DollarCamp is about preventing kids from making easily avoidable mistakes," says founder Stephen Epstein, a San Francisco native who learned about these mistakes first hand as a student. But, are kids responding to his message of fiscal restraint?

Epstein says, "We have had tremendous results by teaching the basics through story-telling and case studies that kids can relate to. After all, when you hear it from your peers, it isn't as if your parents are talking." Epstein notes that all DollarCamp instructors are in their 20s, recent graduates themselves, who often use their own personal experience as a backdrop to their instructions. "Kids are smart; they don't want to be talked down to, but a sincere message from someone relatively close to their age gets through.

Key to DollarCamp's message is making a proper and realistic budget. Without a good system it's almost impossible to be organized and disciplined with one's money.

Once a good system is in place, the individual can form good money habits that will be with that person for the rest of his or her life. Epstein, a recent college graduate himself, sought information from parents, teachers, accountants, financial planners and wealth managers. He believes that the most powerful part of the course is the real stores about how students get into financial messes.

Source: DollarCamp

 

 

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