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Helping Your College Student Understand Credit

An important aspect of transitioning your child from childhood to adulthood is having an understanding of how credit works.

Nashville, Ark. – Parents who have sent their child off to college for the first time this year are just now realizing the cost of paying for that college education. Hopefully, you have prepared for the cost of tuition, books, room and board and the numerous other necessities you will incur during the next few years. However, you may have overlooked a very important aspect of transitioning your child from childhood to adulthood – an understanding of how credit works.

            You probably learned or are beginning to learn the unfamiliar expenses – and temptations – young people face upon entering college or the workforce. As a parent, now is the time to help your children avoid early financial mistakes that could damage their credit for years to come.

            The first step in managing personal finances is to master the basic checking account and debit account. Here are a few tips to share with your child:

  • Look for a bank or credit union that charges no monthly usage fee, requires no minimum balance and has conveniently located ATMs so you don’t spend a fortune on ATM charges.
  • Teach your child how to enter all transactions in a check register, whether you use checks, a debit account, or both. You may need to remind them to post everything and how to verify deposits, checks, debit purchases and any automatic payments. Check at a minimum once a week. You may need to check more often at the beginning of the semester since several purchases are usually made at this time.
  • It goes without saying, avoid writing checks or making debit card transactions unless the money is in the bank and will cover the transaction.

            Now, what about credit cards? With a college student in my home, we are constantly receiving information about opening a credit account. Should I open an account or throw the information in the trash?

            A good way to build good credit is to demonstrate responsible credit card use. People under the age of 21 cannot open a credit card account on their own without a parent cosigning unless they can prove they have sufficient income to repay the debt. So how can a parent help their child establish good credit? Here are a couple of options:

  • Make them an authorized user on one of your accounts. They will get their own card and you can restrict the amount they’re able to charge. Authorized users are not legally responsible to pay balances owed. You as the parent and owner of the card will be required to make the payments, so use this option with caution.
  • Add them as a joint account holder to a new or existing account – preferably, one with a small credit limit. Joint account holders are equally responsible for paying off the account.
  • Just remember, any account activity, good or bad, goes on both your credit reports, so careful account monitoring is super important!

            Some young adults just aren’t ready to handle the financial responsibilities of using a credit card. You, as the parent, can determine when they may be ready. To help your child get ready for credit, you might consider trying this:

  • A secured credit card, where users can charge up to the amount deposited to open the account. Purchases are charged against the account’s revolving credit limit. As they pay off the balance the available credit rises, just like a regular credit card. After a period of on-time payments, ask the lender to convert it to an unsecured card, or to at least add an unsecured amount to the account.
  • A prepaid debit card, where you load the card with money in advance and they use the card for purchases or ATM withdrawals. You monitor account activity online or by phone.
  • Be sure to read the fine print. Fees and restrictions usually apply to these types of accounts, so shop around.

            Finally, teach your child to pay without credit. Establishing good credit is important. At some time in the near future, your child will begin making major purchases such as a car, a house payment, etc. Help them now to prepare for future financial decisions.

            For more information on credit or budgeting, contact the Howard County Extension Service at 870-845-7517 or visit our office located on the second floor of the courthouse. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.

Recipe of the Week

            Finding yourself short on time to get a great meal on the table? Try this recipe that the whole family will enjoy. While this recipe may take a little time to prepare, you can always do the prep work, freeze it before cooking and then allow to thaw in the refrigerator before baking.

Easy Homemade Lasagna

¾ pound ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

½ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1 (15.5 oz.) jar spaghetti sauce

1 pint cottage cheese

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 Tablespoons dried parsley

9 lasagna noodles (4 oz.), cooked al dente and cooled in cold water

12 oz. (1.5 cups) shredded mozzarella cheese

            In a large skillet, combine beef, onion, salt and garlic powder. Cook over medium-high heat until browned. Drain and return to skillet. Add spaghetti sauce and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

            In a separate bowl, combine cottage cheese, parmesan and parsley. Mix well.

            Layer in a 9x13-inch pan, small amount of spaghetti sauce, single layer of noodles, 1/3 meat sauce, 1/3 mozzarella cheese, 1/3 cottage cheese mixture. Repeat layers 2 more times, reversing cottage cheese with mozzarella on the 3rd layer, so the mozzarella is on top.

            You may decide to cover, label and freeze at this point. If so, allow enough time to thaw in the refrigerator before baking. Otherwise, cover with foil and bake in 350ºF oven for 40-45 minutes or until bubbly all over. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

By Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Jean Ince
County Extension Agent - Staff Chair
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
421 N. Main St, Nashville AR 71852
(870) 845-7517


The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.