BOARD: Predatory credit card vendors

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.


Solicitors Not Welcome OR Visa: It’s Everywhere It Shouldn’t Be (No, JK, that’s just too dumb) (I rather like it-asg)

At the beginning of the semester, they’re everywhere — vendors set up around the University Center, offering students everything from cellular phone plans and cars to posters and jewelry. Perhaps the most tempting product offered, though, is the credit card. It’s convenient to use, easy to obtain, and, more often than not, a free T-shirt or coffee mug is included in the deal.
If improperly used, however, a credit card is also a catastrophe waiting to happen. A student without a fixed income can easily overspend or miss a payment, paving the way for certain financial disaster. The majority of credit card vendors at colleges fail to offer appropriate material or advice on how to manage credit. According to an article by the Associated Press titled “A Lesson for Credit Card Vendors,” the University of California at Berkeley recently started prohibiting vendors from soliciting on campus unless they hand out pamphlets detailing the financial risks of bad credit. The University of Texas in [AT? -asg] Dallas has completely prohibited vendor booths on its campus. Other state universities now prohibit vendors from using the lure of T-shirts or other free merchandise to entice students to sign up.

Carnegie Mellon, however, has yet to take those steps. Vendors are still allowed on campus, provided they follow the Policies and Procedures guide set forth by the University. While the guide is explicit about parking, smoking, table space and postering, it offers no specifications on how vendors may “persuade” students to use their products, something that should be regulated. Last week, representatives of a credit card company sought to gain the attention of passing students by bullying them into their booth. If a student refused, he or she was berated until out of earshot. While this was not technically an altercation, it was a nuisance that should have been prevented.

An issue like this deserves particular attention at Carnegie Mellon for two reasons. Firstly, many CMU students are of an international background, and their experience with the American financial and credit system may be limited. Secondly, CMU students and their families are already shouldering a substantial economic burden merely by attending the school. Carnegie Mellon first-years pay as much as $42,000 for tuition, room and board. Should a student accrue credit card debt, it could have a far more drastic impact than initially thought. While the offer of “low introductory rates” may seem safe enough, credit card companies usually raise the rate to standard levels long before students can even start making initial payments.

Students have complained to the university about vendors in the past. In September of 2001, many students protested against soliciting on campus. If Carnegie Mellon is truly concerned about its students, it would do well to follow the example of other colleges around the country and place limitations on credit card vendors.