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Talkin’ about my generation: Why aren’t universities doing more to help the “debt set”?

By Caragh Medlicott

It’s no secret that being a student in 2016 is no cheap deal. The vast majority of undergrads are getting into £9000 of debt a year from tuition fees alone. And that’s before we even consider the cost of living as a student. So when a recent survey by My Credit Monitor revealed that more and more students are getting themselves into debt and messing up their credit rating – before they’ve even left university- I can’t say I was entirely surprised.

Student lifestyle is really unlike anything else, we tend to exclusively socialise with fellow students and certainly appreciate a cheap pint more than your average adult. Particularly when first starting uni, it’s easy to get swept up in spontaneous night outs, after lecture pub trips and semi-regular coffee’s to go (to cure the hangover incurred by the first two ventures). It’s not unusual, or unforgivable, that a student’s finances might end up, well, in a bit of a mess.

For a lucky few, a quick call home may quickly remedy a messed up budget, but for a lot of students this isn’t an option. When your overdraft is extended beyond belief and there’s just those pesky few weeks till the next paycheque/ student finance instalment, a credit card can begin to look like a pretty friendly option. But really, this often has an unhappy ending. Not only does it land many in debt up to their ears – something you really don’t need when looking for a job as a graduate- but it can effect a student’s chances of getting a mortgage, among other things. It is something which can haunt a person, even years down the line. So with this in mind, and the statistics to prove this is a growing problem, why aren’t unis doing more to help students by raising awareness of the dangers of getting a credit card?

Considering how much money universities are already getting from students- money which is accumulating as debt for most- surely they could do a little something to help. I’m not suggesting anything radical, just a little more promotion of being smart with finances and more publicity of places students can go to for help and advice when they are struggling.

When I looked specifically into what financial advice is offered by Cardiff University I found a few numbers and places students may be able to access. While I have no doubt these are helpful and informative services, the real issue is making sure students are more aware of them and that, the information is readily available.

Of course there is an extent to which a student does have to be responsible for their own actions and neither the university nor credit cards can be blamed for the issues of a reckless few. I also recognise that there are indeed students who may be responsible enough to use a credit card wisely while at university (and actually improve their credit rating in doing so). The main point is that by offering clear and simple financial advice universities can reach students who are struggling and uncertain of how to handle money in times of financial difficulty. So maybe by building a better understanding of credit cards and ratings at uni today’s students can move away from the ‘debt set’ label and work towards more secure futures.

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