Dr. Carolan became interested in students and credit cards when her own son departed home to attend college and she learned that college students were able to obtain a credit card in their own name without need of a prior credit history, employment or a parent’s co-signature. Intrigued that our youth had such easy access to credit, she spent the better part of two years researching the topic. She learned that few of America’s students, either at home or in the classroom, ever received training in basic personal financial literacy. The literature was replete with information claiming that many students were abusing credit and facing the stressful consequences of carrying excessive debt at such an early age.
Wanting to offer a solution to this problem, Dr. Carolan authored a curriculum entitled, “The ABCs of Credit Card Finance.” Provided in print format and consisting of a student primer, Trainer’s Guide and PowerPoint Presentation, the program has a target audience of high school juniors, seniors and college freshmen. From the onset, CSCCE’s intention was to offer the program without cost and to reach classrooms across America. This objective was achieved by locating educational sponsors to pay for the printing and shipping of the materials. CSCCE’s first sponsor was Microsoft and their funding afforded the distribution of 10,000 student primers. From 2004 through 2009, Citi’s Youth Marketing Division sponsored this popular curriculum and during this period, more than 2.5 million student primers were distributed nationwide, reaching teens in all fifty states, plus Washington D.C. and Guam. This remarkable achievement was accomplished through the assistance of the offices of State Treasurers, Attorneys General, Departments of Financial Institutions, Departments of Education, Departments of Securities, teacher organizations, Federal Reserve Banks, non-profit organizations, and colleges and universities, all of whom helped to get this important curriculum into the classrooms of America.
Now CSCCE has expanded its distribution methodology by launching a new website, www.theabcsofcredit.com, which is dedicated to the topic of student credit card literacy. “The ABCs of Credit Card Finance” is now available on-line, offered in two distinct formats. The traditional program, including all three components, is offered in PDF format so that teachers can download the latest edition of the course material. (The course is updated yearly to stay current with the industry.) The program has also been converted to one that is interactive and animated, that can be taken independently by students on-line. Upon completion of the program, the student will be asked to provide their teacher’s email address so that the instructor may receive notice that their student completed the course material, along with the grade achieved.
The passage of the Credit CARD Act of 2009 has caused many changes in the credit card business, one of which is to curtail teens’ easy access to credit. Young adults under the age of 21 must now prove they have sufficient independent income to repay their debt or have an individual over the age of 21 co-sign their account before they will be granted a credit card.
In 2001, there was little interest in offering financial literacy to America’s teens. Few parents were teaching their kids basic financial literacy and schools believed it wasn’t their job to broach this subject, claiming it was the parent’s job. Over the years, this attitude has changed and now many schools teach the topic. In fact, a number of states require tutoring in basic financial literacy as a requirement for high school graduation.