College students need a babysitter. Or at least that’s what the federal government thinks, if the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 is any indicator. The act requires all credit card applicants under the age of 21 to have a co-signer above the age of 21 or to prove their ability to be responsible with a credit card. But the law doesn’t respect the autonomy of college-aged individuals as legal adults and hurts their financial independence.
The law was designed to help credit card holders make informed financial decisions by banning retroactive rate increases and fees and making credit card terms clearer. But the Credit CARD Act mandates that credit card applicants under 21 have “a parent, guardian, or other qualified individual” co-sign their credit card application or prove their financial responsibility. If young adults decide to take full responsibility for their credit card and can't provide documentation that convinces a credit card company they are financially stable, they will be required to complete a financial literacy course.
With this provision, Congress is saying that college-aged people aren’t really adults yet. But as legally-recognized adults, 18-year-olds have most of the same rights and responsibilities as other adults. Many 18- to 20-year-olds are financially independent and work on their own. Many — especially college students and lower-income young adults — don't have easy access to a financially stable co-signer, a full bank account or time to complete a financial literacy course. But they still need the benefits of a credit card, like convenient purchases and establishing good credit history.
Instead of allowing young adults the freedom they need to gain financial stability, the federal government seems committed to mollycoddling them. At some point, the federal government needs to realize that college students aren't kids anymore and that they need to learn to take care of themselves.
This editorial was originally published in the Michigan Daily at the University of Michigan. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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