Snipping Solicitation

Almost every day on campus, weather permitting, a student walking past North Quad has the opportunity to apply for a credit card. The problem is some students do not want one or understand the implications of getting one.

Credit card companies do not have to obtain a permit from the university to set up a booth on campus, nor does Ball State receive any revenue from their solicitation. However, companies must be sponsored by a recognized Ball State student organization and may only distribute applications when working in coordinance with the club for fundraising purposes.

Each time a student submits an application, the affiliated Ball State organization earns a small amount of money, and the organization's name is usually written on a banner near the booth.

The Midwest Equestrian Club, an organization affiliated with the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, is one of the Ball State student organizations taking advantage of credit card solicitors as a form of fundraising.

"Like most clubs, we submit an annual budget, but there just isn't enough student activity money to go around. This is one of the best ways to raise money quickly," Dave Fralish of Midwest Equestrian Club said.

According to sophomore Anne Inabnit, who is in charge of fundraising for the Equestrians, the lump sum the group receives varies according to how many club members help to solicit.

"We at least made a couple hundred dollars in the four days," Inabnit said.

Facilities Assignment Coordinator Charlie Scofield is responsible for scheduling a company's solicitation time. According to Scofield, solicitation has decreased in recent years due to space limitations regarding where companies can set up booths. Currently, solicitors are only allowed to set up at the Scramble Light, and until all previously signed contracts are up, inside Teachers College.

"They used to set up in academic buildings, but it conflicted with classes. Next semester they will be solely restricted to the Scramble Light," Scofield said.

Scofield also hears complaints from students about solicitors. He said he has received many complaints from students who have called them "a nuisance."

"Some students have many classes (near the Scramble Light) and get stopped several times a day," Scofield said. "Some students don't want to be stopped. I don't want to be stopped."

Solicitation guidelines do exist, but Scofield admits they are not enforced as they should be. All solicitors, not just credit card companies, are supposed to stand behind their table and are not to approach students. Another guideline Scofield said is frequently violated is that a member of the affiliated student organization must also be behind the table with the company representative. Because Scofield cannot always be at the Scramble Light, it is sometimes difficult to enforce these rules.

Although filling out an application does benefit Ball State students, according to economics professor Gary Santoni, applicants must remember to be smart consumers.

"I think any time you put your name on something, you have to be careful - with any vendors," Santoni said. "Some responsibility must lie within the consumer."

Scofield said student nature to want something for nothing may lead them to sign up for credit cards without reading fine print or fully understanding accompanying stipulations such as interest rates and annual fees. The applicant usually receives a gift, such as a two-liter of Pepsi or a T-shirt, in return for his or her personal information. The credit card company supplies the gifts, not the student organization. Using free gifts as a form of solicitation is not a violation of any university policy.

"(In economics) we use the phrase, 'There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.' Nothing is really free. When I see 'free,' the red flag goes up for me," Santoni said.

Some students attempt to beat the system by keeping free gifts and then cutting up the card when it arrives. According to Catherine Cummings, vice president of public affairs at MasterCard, simply destroying the card does not cancel it.

When students apply for loans, limits on open accounts can haunt borrowers. A financial institution may not want to lend money to a student for fear he or she will run up high bills on open credit accounts, whether or not the actual card exists.

"It eliminates the card from use, but it becomes an open account and potential to borrow... banks do not know those cards don't exist," Cummings said.

The only true way to cancel the card is to both cut up the card and call the credit card company. Cummings also advised students to not sign up for a card unless he or she really wants to use it.

Scofield agreed.

"(If you don't want a card) don't even stop and talk to them. Just keep on walking," Scofield said. "The free stuff may not be worth the headache you'll have later."


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