SIFE combating student debt with financial education

Utah leads the country in bankruptcies, especially in young people, and the U’s Students in Free Enterprise organization met to help students avoid becoming part of that statistic.

The group invited students to the Gould Auditorium to help educate them about financial know-how.

“We want students to learn about personal finance as soon as [they] can,” said Shirlene Liu, a member of SIFE, and an organizer of the event that took place last week.

According to Brandi Behling, vice president of a South Salt Lake Zions Bank, students are three times more likely to be at least 90 days delinquent on their payments than non-student adults and pay late fees as well as over-the-limit credit card fees. Behling also noted that 48 percent of college students with major credit cards in their own name got them before their freshman year.

Because many students do not make payments on time and spend more money, the average credit-card limit of college students is increasing. According to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, undergraduates with credit cards carried an average balance of $3,071 in 2000.

“I think so many students accumulate debt because of lack of knowledge and financial ignorance,” said Rachel Strate, a finance and marketing major. “They may not know where you should be putting your money or how to budget your money.”

Student loans are another reason for rising student debt. According to a report from the State Public Interest Research Group’s Higher Education Project, 64 percent of college students graduated with student loan debt in 2000, and the average debt nearly doubled between 1994 and 2002 to $16,928.

“I think being in college is so hard because not only do students have to worry about tuition, books and loans, but there’s also food, car, etc.,” said Judy Vu, chemistry major at the U.

However, Behling did not just focus on debt problems, but also possible solutions. Behling emphasized the importance of basic budgeting, money management and investments.

Darren Stokes, a Wells Fargo business banker, lectured about the benefits of basic investing. Stokes explained that investing in stocks, mutual funds and IRAs could benefit people in the long run. Even though there may be risk, the return could be much higher than a savings account.

“This seminar changes how much money I would invest. Now I would take the time and value aspects of money into consideration,” Strate said.

The U’s chapter of SIFE is a non-profit organization that teaches its members about market economics, entrepreneurship, personal and financial success and business ethics. SIFE runs financial literacy seminars three times a year with the next one occurring in May.

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