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College students should borrow smartly to avoid credit card debt

College is a time for "firsts", and for many American students, one of those firsts includes getting a credit card for the first time. However, as many Michigan students have discovered, credit card debt is deceptively easy to accrue. Therefore, it is beneficial to be educated about credit options and possible solutions to debt problems before opening an account.

A recent study suggests that approximately 21 percent of college freshmen have a credit card. By the time they reach their senior year that number jumps to over 60 percent. While credit cards are an important part of building positive credit for future investments like car or home purchases, there are several pitfalls to avoid in order to ensure debt does not become unmanageable. Thankfully there are also several strategies that can be implemented to help avoid those pitfalls.

Approval for credit is not as simple as it once was -- many students under 21 will require a co-signer or proof of part-time employment to even be considered. However, it is important to understand the responsibilities involved in co-signing before agreeing to "help out" a friend by co-signing for their credit card. It is also important to remember that student loans should not be used to pay off existing credit debt. Finally, keeping a low balance and ensuring the card chosen will suit the financial needs and limitations of the student are equally useful in staving off crippling debt.

Of course, even with all these options available, some students may not be able to avoid credit card debt. Michigan students who are struggling with such debt are urged to seek out additional resources and information about their options in dealing with their debt. Debt restructuring and bankruptcy can go a long way toward paying down and forgiving debt that may have gotten too difficult to bear.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Getting Started: When opening credit, borrow smartly," Carolyn Bigda, July 12, 2013