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Credit Card Debt: It’s About Responsibility, Not Math

When I read this Business Week article [3] about how the Ford Foundation and the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG, great meaningless name and awesome acronym) were setting up tables on college campuses to warn college students about the dangers of credit cards, I smiled. I have nothing against this and I like the fact that credit card companies are often prohibited from going on college campuses to hawk their cards. I understand that people need to be educated on everything, including predatory lending, risks of credit and all that mumbo jumbo, but at some point the line has to be drawn.

I have to believe that college kids are smart enough (they did get into college right?) to figure out how credit cards work. It seems to be that the issue here is about responsibility, not simple math. You borrow money, you need to pay it back. If you pay it back within the grace period, you borrow for free. You don’t, you pay interest. It’s simple. The question is whether you can be responsible with it. You can’t overdraw your wallet, but you overdraw your bank account.

Can the PIRG really teach students, who have had their first taste of freedom, to be responsible? You can’t stop underage drinking, drugs, and rock and roll in college… you likely stand no chance of stopping credit cards unless you teach some responsibility and they’ve been trying to do that for ages.