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The answer to the above question, shockingly, is in the credit-card statements mailed each month to Boston-area college students. According to our estimate, college students in and around the city carry $533 million in credit-card debt.

According to Sallie Mae, 84 percent of college students have at least one credit card, and the average debt for undergraduates is over $3,100. One in five college graduates leave school with over $7,000 in debt.

Unfortunately, many college students don’t understand the importance of responsible credit card and debt management. They are lured in by giveaways and other gimmicks, and in many cases make only minimum payments which means they rack up big interest payments over time. And in many cases, students fail to make payments, bringing in debt collectors and black marks on their credit ratings. They don’t realize that over time, those poor decisions now can follow them when they pursue jobs or consider buying a car or house.

In an effort to make sure college students understand what’s at stake and how to better handle credit cards, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation has created Project Credit Smarts. In this program, our Office and our partners go to college campuses and speak directly to students about the pitfalls and dangers of credit cards, and about how to responsibly manage their debt.

We are officially kicking off Project Credit Smarts with an event tomorrow at Roxbury Community College, but have already held some seminars on campuses in the area. By the end of the fall, we expect to have visited 10 or more campuses, and talked to more than 1,000 students. Along with our academic partners, we have nine business and policy partners who are supporting our efforts, creating a real team of collaborators to tackle this issue.

I’ll be talking more about Project Credit Smarts throughout the fall. You can see our PowerPoint presentation by clicking here, and we hope you share it with someone who would benefit from some guidance on this issue.

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