This story was originally reported by PRI's The Takeaway. For more, listen to the audio above.
Gone are the days when credit card companies would line up on college campuses, throwing credit cards at any students who would accept free pizza or a Frisbee. "That's not allowed," according to Beth Kobliner, the finance contributor for PRI's The Takeaway, "and it's not allowed to happen on campus anymore, and that's a welcome change."
New laws governing credit cards went into effect in February of 2010, but they're really kicking in now that college students are going back to school. Under the new law, people under 21 years old cannot get a credit card without an adult cosigning. "This is a big big change," Kobliner says. "This has never happened before."
At the same time, college students are now simply paying older people to cosign for them. To avoid telling their parents about their credit cards, students are having older friends or graduate students sign on to the credit cards. Kobliner reports that businesses have popped up that offer cosigners at a cost.
Giving authority to the parents won't solve the problem either, according to Kobliner. "Who got into this big trouble and led us into this recession in the first place?" Kobliner asks. "The Baby Boomers racked up massive amounts of credit card debt and mortgage debt they couldn't afford."
At this point, young people may not want to have their parents lousy credit scores messing up their chances of getting a credit card. And the parents themselves might not even qualify.
If they do qualify, Kobliner cautions that parents should be very careful. They should make sure they're not tying themselves to their children's bad credit, and they're not tying their kids to their own bad credit, either.
The basic premise of giving credit cards to college students was that the parents would always be able to swoop in and help, if problems were to arise. In this economy, that's no longer a reality for many parents. "Now many kids won't be able to get credit cards because they don't have jobs and they don't have income," Kobliner reports. And maybe that's not all bad.
"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what's ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH. More at thetakeaway.org