Opinion: Clarion Call

Call. 27: Senate Proposes Limiting Credit Cards for “Underage” Students

Senate Proposes Limiting Credit Cards for “Underage” Students

For most young adults, reaching the age of 21 is the final step into adulthood. At that age, they are allowed to purchase alcohol, having already been granted the privileges of working, driving, voting, smoking and enlisting in the military. Legislation before the U.S. Senate would add another “privilege” to reaching the age of 21: being able to receive a credit card.

Under legislation being debated in the Senate banking committee, credit-card companies would be forbidden to issue credit cards to individuals under age 21. The Consumer Credit Card Protection Amendments of 1999, introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) to amend the Truth in Lending Act, contains the prohibition, which would apply unless the companies obtained the permission of their parents or guardians.

The legislation is aimed to prevent students from garnering high credit-card debt. Undergraduates average about $2,200 in credit-card debt, according to Nellie Mae, the largest lender to students in the country. Critics of the legislation say that it is a heavy-handed solution to a small problem that doesn’t require governmental attention. Jon Sanders, director of publications for the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, said the legislation ignores the benefits credit cards hold for students. “Used properly, credit cards can increase the personal freedom and security of young adults,” Sanders said. “They can also teach them responsibility, budgeting, frugality and maturity.”

Graduate Teaching Assistant Union

Graduate Teaching Assistant Unions are becoming increasingly popular with both graduate students and union organizers, according to a report in the August 3 edition of Investor’s Business Daily.

According to the IBD report, The Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union is now embroiled in a fierce battle with Yale University in attempting to organize teaching assistants there. The United Auto Workers union also is trying to organize graduate students who teach at the University of California. Many graduate teaching assistants at those schools contend that they are employees of those universities and have a right to unionize.

Regardless of rights, however, the IBD report contains research that was released by the National Center for Policy Analysis on Aug. 3, which shows that Yale doctoral students receive plenty of benefits for being teaching assistants without joining the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union. Among the benefits that the typical Yale doctoral student receives are: four years of paid tuition (worth $21,760 each year), an annual stipend averaging $13, 475, a dissertation fellowship of $9,500, and free health care and job placement assistance. Provost Alison Richard further warns that treating university students – even graduate student assistants – as employees can be potentially dangerous. “If students were to be treated as employees… under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Act,” he told IBD, “a universe of pervasive and intrusive external regulation and regulatory processes would apply.”

Other critics of unionization contend that unions would subject schools to legal harassment, which would also disrupt the educational system.