Jan 262004
 
Authors: Amy Sulzbach

Opening the first credit card statement of the new year can be

just as bleak and cloudy as the winter weather outside.

With the holidays behind them some students are wondering how

they can recover from the stress of credit card debt and empty bank

accounts.

Judy McKenna, a family economics specialist for CSU Cooperative

Extension, encouraged people in a recent press release to seek

professional help in paying off debts.

“I spent way more on my Visa card during break than I do during

any other time of the school year,” said Amber Mesker, a junior

journalism and technical communication major. Mesker feels

overwhelmed with the thought of managing that new debt.

College students getting into credit card debt without an income

is a concern.

Some students are feeling the rising pressure of these debts and

are looking for an answer.

For Keith Spilman, a junior business major who purchased several

pricey gifts this season with his MasterCard, the solutions of

television debt-consolidation advertisements do not look

promising.

“I might think about looking around for help but all of those

toll-free numbers on TV look like a rip-off,” Spilman said.

Though McKenna promotes seeking assistance to help manage and

control debt, she wrote that some companies charge high fees and do

not always perform as promised.

Look for a non-profit organization that is reputable, said

Jacque Miller, a family resource management specialist for

Cooperative Extension. She recommends contacting the Better

Business Bureau with questions about an organization.

Marci Ott of Consumer Credit Counseling of Northern Colorado,

said it can help students manage debt responsibly, and in some

cases reduce debt. She said the organization, located on 1247

Riverside Ave., often visits colleges and universities to give

lectures and seminars on credit management.

“It is a high-priority mission,” Ott said. Clients are charged

for services according to a scale. That scale includes free

services for clients without an income.

Both McKenna and Ott said people should seek help if they are no

longer able to pay the minimum payment on the bill.

“Soon finance charges don’t even touch the principle on the

balance,” Ott said.

Ott said the Fort Collins office can help students even though

they do not have a full-time income, which is an issue students

like Spilman worry about.

Students should exercise caution when seeking any debt

counseling service. Ott said that once some creditors are contacted

they may send notices to one or all of the credit bureaus informing

them that a person has sought debt management services.

For some students this can be a concern, but for others Ott

said, “You are already in trouble with your credit report.”

Debt counseling services often provide clients with

opportunities to make lump payments and potentially lower those

payments.

Students must be careful of newer or less reputable companies

who are in business for profit, McKenna said. These companies often

operate on the pretense that a person can erase their debt with a

quick fix.

Paying his credit cards off would put him at ease, Spilman

said.

“It’s just a matter of finding a legitimate plan.”

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