College credit card debt soars with tuition and fees

The results of a new Sallie Mae study are unsurprising: As parental ability to help with college cost decreases and college costs increase, the amount of credit card debt being carried by college students has absolutely exploded. In 2004, the average college student carried $2,169 in card debt. In 2008, that number rose to $3,173 -- an increase of more than 46% in four years.

That number includes students who didn't have credit cards: Among students who did, debt at graduation was up 44% since 2004 to $4,138.

"It's likely that 2009 (card debt) could look a little bit worse," says Marie O'Malley, Sallie Mae's director of consumer research.

A little bit worse. Let's see: The economy has absolutely hit the bricks over the past year, and student loan availability has dried up -- along with the home equity that so many parents were using to help kids pay for college. Meanwhile, college costs have continued to rise and endowments and state aid have plunged.

It could be a little bit worse than a little bit worse. It could actually be a lot worse than a little bit worse. It could be downright terrifying. Add in the fact that students are entering one of the toughest job markets in history with those credit card balances -- at usurious rates that are increasing even more -- and Gen Y's post-collegiate financial picture could be a real doozy -- not to be a Chicken Little or anything like that.

Meanwhile The Chicago Tribunereports that many college students are having a harder time qualifying for credit cards at all.

Check out Sallie Mae's press release for details on the study's results and some incredibly useless tips for credit card use like "Keep your card in a safe place."
Read Full Story