Briefly

    Students improving credit management

    The average outstanding credit-card balance maintained by undergraduate college students fell to $2,169 last year, its lowest level since 1998, according to a new study released by student loan provider Nellie Mae.

    The data pointed to a leveling off of sharply increasing credit card usage among college students, a public policy issue that has become a point of concern in recent years.

    According to the survey, 76 percent of college students that began school in 2004 possessed a credit card, an 8 percent decrease from 2001.

    More than half of the students said that they first obtained their charge cards at the age of 18, pointing to freshman year as the most prevalent time for students to open new credit accounts.

    In addition, the average number of credit cards per student fell slightly from 4.15 cards in 2001 to 4.09 cards in 2004.

    “The fact that the average credit card usage has declined among undergraduates in the past three years can be viewed as a sign that the message to use credit responsibly is reaching its intended audience,” Nellie Mae Vice President of Marketing Marie O’Malley stated in a press release.

    In particular, O’Malley said the company was concerned that some students were using the high-interest credit cards to pay for school expenses, with almost a quarter of all students saying that they used them to pay their regular tuition. Overall, school supplies represented the leading expenditures bought with credit.

    Drunk students face higher injury, rape risk

    College students who get drunk at least once a week face a significantly higher risk of being hurt or injured than nondrinkers, researchers from Wake Forest University School of Medicine reported at the annual meeting of the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine.

    Part of the five-year research project, the results were collected in an effort to reduce drinking on college campuses.

    Wake Forest researchers reported that students who regularly get intoxicated were twice as likely to fall from a height than nondrinkers, and were 75 percent more likely to be sexually victimized.

    “When you drink, you’re also at risk because of other people’s drinking,” the university’s assistant professor of medicine and public health sciences Mary Claire O’Brien stated in a press release.

    The researchers defined students with “problem drinking” as having four or five drinks in a short period of time.

    Bill would close high-interest loan loophole

    A new bill introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) would close a loophole in the federal student loan program that has allowed lenders to receive billions of dollars in unintended profit from the federal government over the last decade.

    If passed, the legislation would end a controversial bank subsidy that guarantees student lenders a 9.5 rate of return on certain student loans. That amount is almost three times the actual interest rate paid by students, meaning that the government has had to make up the remaining 6.1 percent in the form of a subsidy.

    Lawmakers had intended to end the special loan guarantee more than 10 years ago, but lenders have been able to use a narrowly tailored exception included in the law at the time to continue to charge the government extra interest on a certain class of loans.

    During the first three months of the current fiscal year, that exception has cost the government $262 million, according to data maintained by the Department of Education.

    “Congress should stop pandering to the money-lenders and close this outrageous loophole once and for all,” Kennedy stated in a press release. “This taxpayer rip-off is costing us a billion dollars a year — nearly $3 million a day — and denying more students the chance to go to college.”

    New computers to construct ‘Tree of Life’

    Scientists are using a new supercomputing cluster installed at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, purchased with a grant from the National Science Foundation, to try to understand the evolutionary relationships between all living organisms.

    The project will use new formats and techniques of data storage to accelerate the speed of predicting evolutionary relationships. The new hardware will allow researchers to make progress in solving difficult computational problems involved with recreating the “Tree of Life,” they said.

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