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Speaking Out

All Charged Up

On September 4th, I visited the University Bookstore and was pained to see a table at the front door urging our new students to sign up for a bank card that even had a Penn logo on it. Surely we are all aware of the seductive nature of easy credit, particularly in the hands of inexperienced youngsters. The newspapers as well as conversations with friends relate many tales of large debts incurred by young people before they realize that there is no free lunch.

I believe that offering credit cards to our students is actually predatory behavior by banks, which are happy to have these youngsters carry sizable debts that incur interest (money rental) rates often over 15%! The fact that the University actually facilitates our students in obtaining the cards, clearly aware of the huge potential for abuse, seems contrary to our charge to educate and care for them. Moreover, the fact that the University receives a percent of what the students charge with these cards is cynical to the extreme. We should be teaching our youngsters to live within their means; rather, we are creating the implied message that the University is happy to see them adding to their debt! Can't we keep these predators off campus?

-- Rob Roy MacGregor, professor of medicine-infectious diseases;
Director of HUP AIDS Clinical Trials Unit

 

Maintaining Good Credit

Thank you for sharing your feedback regarding the Penn MBNA credit card program that is currently marketed on campus.  We share your concern about young people understanding the nature and implications of credit. In fact, one of the primary criteria for selecting MBNA as a partner was their sensitivity and demonstrated commitment to helping students establish and manage credit responsibly.

MBNA, a recognized leader in credit cards programs in higher education, has a specialized program that demonstrates their awareness that the student market must be handled with particular care. The company typically assigns low initial credit lines to students, raising them only as students demonstrate their ability to manage their accounts responsibly. A credit education brochure is included with each new MBNA credit card to help students understand what they must do to build and maintain good credit for the future.

Although there is certainly the potential for abuse, many students and parents believe that credit cards are important in emergency situations and to facilitate transactions like purchasing plane tickets or shopping on the Internet. Unlike other credit card options that students may pursue, the Penn MBNA credit card program provides participants with an added communication channelPenn can enable a prompt response from MBNA to any questions or concerns.

It's also important to note that the Penn MBNA credit card program provides financial support for a number of University initiatives as well as campus and community services. UC Brite, a West Philadelphia neighborhood initiative that provides lighting for 123 square blocks, is one of them.

MBNA also sponsors credit usage seminars, which educate students about the importance of maintaining good credit and on using credit responsibly. Penn will host one of these seminars later in this semester and again in the spring. We will continue to monitor the performance of MBNA to ensure that they are living up to their commitments as well as our expectations.

-- Leroy D. Nunery, II
Vice President of Business Services

 


  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 7, October 7, 2003

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