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Charge it: college student credit card use on the rise, says Nellie Mae study. (Financial Aid Watch).

In its third in a series of credit card usage studies conducted since 1998, Nellie Mae randomly selected data for 600 undergrads, aged 18 to 24, attending four-year public and private institutions. The students had applied for a credit-based loan with Nellie Mae during the summer and fall of 2001. (The same methodology was used in 1998 and 2000, with a smaller sample size; methodologies year-to-year remained consistent.) Highlights of the study:

* Graduating students have an average of $20,402 in combined education loan and credit card balances, but ...

* Undergraduate college students are carrying credit cards in record numbers. The percentage of students holding at least one card in 2001 has risen 24% since 1998.

* 83% of undergraduate students have at least one credit card; a 24% hike since '98.

* Although freshmen have the lowest rate of card possession among undergraduates, 54% carry a credit card. The percentage of students with at least one card increases to 92% in sophomore year.

* Only 23% of freshman, on the other hand, have a student loan. For many students entering college today, their first credit experience is with a credit card, whereas 10 years ago it was through a student loan.

* The median debt level among card-carrying undergraduates--where half the population have balances lower than this amount and half have balances higher--has risen to $1,770, up 43% from $1,236 in 2000. This is an indicator that more students are using their cards regularly and may not be paying off the balances each month.

* 21% of undergraduates who have cards have high-level balances between $3,000 and $7,000; a 61% increase over 2000.

* The good news is that average credit card balances among students who have cards is $2,327, and has decreased by 15% from the previous average calculated in 2000. The percentage of students with balances greater than $7,000 has also declined.

* The bad news: Students double their average credit card debt, and triple the number of credit cards in their wallets, from the time they arrive on campus, 'til graduation.

Source: "Undergraduate Students and Credit Cards: An Analysis of Usage Rates and Trends," 2001, Nellie Mae (a wholly owned subsidiary of Sallie Mae).
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Publication:University Business
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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