Video On Smart Money Habits Blankets Schools Nationwide–Targets College-Bound Teens
Forget about that monster under the bed. The really scary ones hide within the growing piles of credit card applications in the mailboxes of high school seniors, luring young adults into early debt just as they begin their college careers. The best defense: a good offense like the Florida State University public service message entitled “Avoiding the Credit Card Monster.
Funded by a $30,000 grant, the powerful little video in a garnet-and-gold wrapper serves up 10 positive minutes of basic financial advice to youthful credit novices. FSU recently distributed more than 22,000 copies to every high school and K-12 institution in the United States with an enrollment of at least 100 students, a strategy designed to reach the largest possible number of soon-to-be-matriculating consumers. While the video is geared to college-bound students and their parents, it is also accompanied by complete lecture notes for use and discussion in the classroom.
“I’d been increasingly concerned for years about the growing problem of student debt,” said Perry Crowell, FSU’s assistant vice president for Finance and Administration. In the late-’90s Crowell designed a freshman-oriented Power Point presentation on credit management, which he used as a teaching tool in “First-Year Experience” seminars. The presentation evolved into a university Web site and then into his own dissertation on student debt, and was finally transformed into the nationally-distributed “credit card monster” video.
Crowell, who now holds a doctorate in education, intends to counter those friendly personalized letters from credit card companies, which recruit profitable new customers just in time for the sometimes free-spending years sandwiched between college applications and job applications. Credit purveyors know that those future degrees garner average annual salaries nearly double the wages earned with high school diplomas alone.
“My own experience directing Student Financial Services, and as a father, made it clear that everyone has a troubling story about debt,” said Crowell, who credits the encouragement and support of then-FSU controller and colleague Larry Reese, now at Florida A & M University, for “being the driving force behind the development of this project.”
The sunny lawns, bustling sidewalks, moss-draped oaks, and wired classrooms of FSU’s campus create the backdrop for much of the video. Scenes include both serious and lighthearted cameos by a cross-section of FSU students, including one who described friends so debt-stressed “they can’t even buy food.” Humor balances the practical how-to narrative, including a psuedo-clip from a David Letterman-style “Late Payment Show” featuring the requisite top-10 list of worst credit mistakes, like being “sucked in” by low rates that rise quickly; damaging credit scores by applying for multiple cards even if accounts aren’t actually opened; and bankruptcy, which can haunt students on future job applications. While the video points out that prudent emergency-only use of credit cards and prompt payment of monthly balances help students build positive credit records for the future, too much credit too soon creates more problems than positives.
Even Albert Einstein gets a plug, when the video’s producer and on-camera host Scott Atwell, director of Visual Media and Promotion at FSU, literally goes to the blackboard to demonstrate how Einstein’s self-described “greatest mathematical discovery of all time”, the rule of compound interest, pins a $2,500 credit card debt, a 21-percent interest rate, and minimum monthly payments of $50 into nine long years of repayment totaling far more than the original charges.
Feedback from school officials nationwide has been positive. One instructor noted that the “short and sweet” video was an “eye-opening experience” for students. Another observed that students were genuinely amazed to learn that they could go to jail for writing bad checks, or that it could take a decade or more to pay off interest-laden credit card debts.
Online access to the video, plus text of the accompanying lecture notes and class discussion guide, can be found by visiting www.creditcard.fsu.edu.