In an effort to prevent students from entering into large credit card debt, the UCSB chapter of CalPIRG tabled at the Arbor yesterday as part of its Truth About Credit campaign.

According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s statistics, many college students graduate with high credit card debt, averaging close to $4,000 per person. In order to combat this trend, CalPIRG has begun a nationwide campaign to teach responsible credit card behavior. U.S. PIRG’s subsidiary organization in California, the student-funded and directed CalPIRG, advocates on behalf of students in the state legislature.

The group has promoted the campaign on campuses statewide this week. Its past campaigns have included a drive to lower the cost of textbooks.

UCSB CalPIRG Campus Organizer Garo Manjikian said the lobby group is working to ease the financial woes of university students.

“We are all about college affordability and saving students money,” Manjikian said. “Educating students on the truth about credit will save students money.”

Manjikian alleged that credit card companies use gifts and enticing benefits to trap students into signing up for high-interest cards with high annual fees. CalPIRG maintains that because students are uninformed as to the terms of the cards, their debt is higher than average.

CalPIRG further alleges that common promotions, such as ones in which credit card companies promise free food to students who sign up, sometimes saddle students with cards that have unfavorable terms in their contracts.

“A lot of college students don’t have credit cards yet and they may be thinking about getting one to build up their credit scores,” Manjikian said. “In the contract, there will be some things that are unfair and wrong. There might be something in their policy that says ‘We can change when your statement is due without letting you know.'”

First-year global studies major Paige Farrell said she disagrees with the tactics some credit card companies allegedly use when soliciting the business of college students.

“The way that credit card companies present their offers is deceiving and it is an inconvenience to the credit card holder,” Farrell said. “As a college student, the position the credit card companies put me in is unfair. CalPIRG’s goal to eliminate college card marketing is one that I support.”

U.S. PIRG has stated its intent to encourage a national debate about the situation. Manjikian said the event was educational for students and should help them avoid financial difficulties in the future.
“Our purpose was passing out info about how not to fall into trap,” he said.