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Many college students prefer fun over debt worries

Emily Crone

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A new poll of college students has found that nearly a quarter of them don’t consider the long-term ramifications when using a credit card to fund a night of fun. This online poll sponsored by the National Association of Retail Collection Attorneys shows that many young people simply aren’t concerned with debt.

In a news release,
Robert Markoff, president of NARCA, says, “Our poll results show that too many young people are living for the moment and are not preparing for their financial future.”

The survey was taken online by a panel of 500 college students nationwide who had previously agreed to participate in online surveys. The panel was notified of the poll via a link sent in an e-mail and asked demographic questions to make weighting possible. NARCA said the survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent for the full sample.

The poll found that 31 percent of students don’t worry about debt; they think they can pay it back once they’re out of school and working full-time. Additionally, more than a quarter of college students see no problem with running up debt that may take months or years to pay off, even when it’s splurging rather than spending money on something that’s really needed. An average of 23 percent of students ignore overdraft penalties.

The press release quotes a college student whose attitude embodies the poll results. Kalie Jones, a senior at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, says, “For the last three years I never worried about money — my friends and I did what we wanted to do,” she says. “I go out; if I see a dress I like, I’ll buy it; and for spring break we are thinking about going to an all-inclusive resort, a trip that will certainly cost a chunk of money. Now that I am entering my senior year, reality is setting in. I’ll need to get a job that will support my lifestyle, and I know I should change my spending behavior.”

In the press release, Markoff addresses much-needed changes: “We are hopeful that by identifying key behaviors behind irresponsible financial decisions we can address this serious problem at its root. It is understandable that many students want to enjoy themselves and live in the moment while they are still studying, but they should remember that the debt they accrue will need to be paid off in the future.”

While college students may be in the red, at least some are financially literate. The poll found that 42 percent of those who have been contacted by a debt collector would develop a payment plan to pay back the debt over time, and 46 percent always save receipts. Another 92 percent agree that bad debt (“failure to pay bills that extends so long that a debt collector has to contact the consumer”) has a significant impact on that person’s future abilities to get credit.

See related: Poll
shows teens lack credit card knowledge
; The need for early financial literacy

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