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Yesterday morning we officially kicked Project Credit Smarts, our effort to inform and engage college students on the issues of credit card and debt management (the photo above is of me speaking at the event). This is a huge challenge – with thousands of college students in Massachusetts ringing up hundreds of millions of dollars in credit card debt and struggling to keep up with payments – but we have assembled a great team to start tackling the issue.

PCS 9.16.09 RCC President Gomes At yesterday’s press conference at Roxbury Community College (Dr. Terrence A. Gomes, RCC’s President, spoke at the event — photo left), many of our partners from area colleges, and business and policy organizations, were on hand to help us celebrate the launch of Project Credit Smarts. We’re going to have to all work together as we move forward, trying to reach as many college students as possible. We want to ensure, as much as we can, that college students understand the importance of credit card use, and that they realize poor decisions now can haunt them for years to come.

During Project Credit Smarts presentations, students are encouraged to avoid the free t-shirts and other giveaways, and instead shop around for a credit card that offers them solid interest rates and benefits; to pay their balances every month to avoid late fees and interest payments; and to make smart decisions with their credit and not rack up big charges through fancy vacations, dinners out, or other largely discretionary purchases. We also talk about identity protection, an important lesson for students to learn.

I was struck at yesterday’s event not only by our partners’ understanding of the depth and importance of educating young adults about this problem, but also by their enthusiasm and dedication to making Project Credit Smarts a valuable tool for college students. We will be going to college campuses throughout the fall and winter as we spread the word about credit-card use.

PCS 9.16.09 Rep. Speliotis at podium tight Our college partners are: Roxbury Community College, Salem State College, Pine Manor College, Bentley College, Simmons College (Diane Hammer, the Director of the Simmons Institute for Leadership and Change listens to Rep. Ted Speliotis in the photo to the right), Bunker Hill Community College, Wellesley College, Fitchburg State College, and UMass-Amherst.

Our business and policy partners are: The Federal Trade Commission (which created the original Project Credit Smarts program), the Massachusetts Division of Banks, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Massachusetts Bankers Association, the Massachusetts Credit Union League, Inc., the Better Business Bureau, Sallie Mae, and Nellie Mae.

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