Hawaii joins states passing
laws to deal with credit offers

ALBANY, N.Y. >> For college-bound high school graduate Kenneth Cashwell, the credit card offers started coming that summer of 2000 too fast to count and too alluring to resist.

Cashwell eventually succumbed to promises of low, low rates, no payments for three months, and even an appeal to fiscal responsibility: "Start building your credit now."

Within two years the Queens, N.Y., resident had applied for six credit cards, and his debt was mounting toward $4,000. His credit card bills topped $100 a month while he was a mostly unemployed, full-time student at the State University of New York at Farmingdale.

"I had a pile of people just basically giving me money," Cashwell said. "I figured I would get a job and be able to keep up ... It became a never-ending cycle."

The New York Legislature this week passed a measure that would prohibit the deluge of credit card offers on campuses and requires some consumer education.

Nine other states -- Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Virginia, and West Virginia -- have passed restrictions or required studies of credit card solicitation on campuses this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Seven other states have pending proposals.

If signed into law by Gov. George Pataki, New York would end tables of solicitors offering gifts for sign-ups, and the junk mail in dorm mailboxes and every bookstore shopping bag -- with colleges often getting a cut.

The market has created an explosion in credit card holders and debt. Sixty-seven percent of all college students have at least one credit card, 24 percent more than in 1990, according to national research included in the state bill. The average balance also has ballooned from $900 in 1990 to $2,100.

The college credit boon was building when William Boyland Jr. was a freshman in the late 1980s at Virginia State University.

"When I went into college it was the first thing I saw, with water bottles, free T-shirts, you name it," said Boyland. He said the debt haunts the students after college as they pay too much of entry-level paychecks to finance charges.

"There's no thought to the repercussions when you're 28 or 30 and you try to buy a house," Boyland said.


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