Starr, Abbott stump for financial wisdom

Nick Berryman | Lariat Photographer
President Ken Starr sits next to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott as they announce a financial literacy initiative for college students in Texas at a press conference Thursday at the Mayborn Museum Complex.

By Ariadne Aberin
Staff Writer

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Baylor President Ken Starr have collaborated to provide Baylor students with resources to educate them on the importance of financial responsibility. The two spoke at a press conference at the Mayborn Museum to promote a new DVD designed to educate college students on the importance of smart financial decision-making and give students tips on how to responsibly handle their newfound financial freedom.

High-interest credit card debt is a growing problem among Texas college students. Various state and federal regulations have been passed in an attempt to combat this issue, such as the federal law requiring students to have a co-signer if the student lacks the funds to pay back the credit card, and the state law requiring colleges and universities to educate their students on personal financial management.

To address this issue, the attorney general’s office has developed an award-winning DVD titled “Money Crunch.”

“We wanted to roll this out so we could connect with the students because we see it as a dramatic problem,” Abbott said. “The time that we’re living, in the aftermath of the great recession — a cause for that recession was people living beyond their means, racking up too much debt on credit cards. In order for us as a nation to pull out of that, we must educate everyone, from students to seniors and people in between, about how to be responsible with debt, and that starts with being responsible with credit cards.”

Abbott said he hopes the DVD will be effective at grabbing students’ attention and connecting with them about the importance of being responsible with their newfound privileges and freedom of being exposed to credit. Baylor has also taken steps to remedy the ongoing burden of high credit card debt.

“Everyday we’re out there encouraging people to address this problem at Baylor University,” Starr said. “We’re still a best value, but that doesn’t help the families who are struggling with this and then the students who have this high debt as they leave.”

As a part of Baylor’s effort to combat the growing issue of credit card debt, credit card companies are not permitted to solicit on campus, and freshman orientation provides a program called “Cash Course” for students and parents, designed to increase awareness of the importance of smart financial management.

“I think that the overall Baylor program has been very well received,” Starr said. “I think these are financial talents and skills that you haven’t necessarily thought about, even with good parental guidance, until you are emancipated and now making your own decisions. Sometimes, one may be having an academic issue that may be affected indirectly by the stress of a financial situation, so we’re ensuring that we’re being very intentional and holistic about responding.”

There have been other solutions put forward in an attempt to help educate people on this matter. Dr. Jim Roberts, professor of marketing, has recently written a book, “Shiny Objects,” a culmination of his research on compulsive shopping, materialism and credit card abuse. The book will be published by Harper Collins and will be released in the fall.

“The book includes a lot of great stories and a lot of great research,” Roberts said. He explained that through his research, he has found that even the best students are impacted by credit card abuse.

He added that the first step to being responsible credit card users is to figure out how we relate to money.

“If we’re overly materialistic,” Roberts said, “we use credit cards more because that’s an easy way to get what we want.”

Roberts also said that his studies showed that our income and spending since the 1970s has shot up, yet our happiness has flatlined.

“We are no happier in 2011 than we were in 1970,” Roberts said. “The gist of the book is that you’re not going to find happiness through material possessions; you’re going to find it through strong relationships, community involvement, and feeling good about who you are, and money and credit cards can actually undermine our feelings of control and mastery.”

“Money Crunch” will be playing at Clifton Robinson Tower so students can view it while they are waiting in line at the Financial Aid Office. The DVD can also be viewed at the Texas Attorney General’s Website by clicking the graphic titled “Money Crunch.”