OU makes money from credit cards
Soaring credit card bills caused Sean Moyer's life to spin out of control. The massive debt he racked up in just three years of college seemed insurmountable.
He couldn't get loans to go to law school like he dreamed, and his parents couldn't afford to pay his way. So, in February 1998, Sean took his own life.
His mother, Janne O'Donnell of Norman, remains composed as she tells her son's story, but the pain in her voice is undeniable.
O'Donnell appeared on the CBS News show 60 Minutes II Tuesday night in a segment about college students and credit cards.
A crew from 60 Minutes II filmed on campus for two days in October and used hidden cameras to film vendors pushing free T-shirts with credit card applications, O'Donnell said. 60 Minutes II revealed that OU is being paid $13 million over 10 years by First USA for the right to have a presence on campus and to use the OU logo on its cards.
OU is making money off its students who use First USA's OU cards, the report said. The university receives 0.4 percent of each purchase made with the cards.
"It's obscene that the university is making money off the suffering of their students," O'Donnell said.
In a statement to 60 Minutes II, OU Press Secretary Jeff Hickman said, "While there may be some concerns, any remedy must carefully consider the legal rights of those 18 years of age and older, many of whom are wage earners and are fully or partially self-supporting and all of whom are citizens with the right to vote."
The university provides a number of programs to help students learn to manage their finances, Hickman said. All Gateway classes are required to teach a section on personal finances and University College provides seminars at orientations and throughout the semester, he said.
One, taught by Matt Hamilton, associate vice president of Admission, Records and Financial Aid, will be held Thursday from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. in 200 Carnegie Building.
O'Donnell has no doubt credit card companies feed on college students, she said.
"I know they prey on college students," she said. "They're the only category that can get credit without a job."
O'Donnell is lobbying for federal legislation that would force companies to only extend credit to people who have the reasonable ability to pay it off, she said.
Though it is difficult for O'Donnell to talk about the subject, she said she needs to share Sean's story.
"It's getting easier because I think it is important," she said.
Sean Moyer had 12 credit cards and more than $10,000 in debts when he committed suicide nearly three years ago, she said. He had two jobs: one at the library and another as a security guard at Holiday Inn, but he still could not pay his collectors, she said.
Though she is crusading against these companies, O'Donnell said she is not blaming them for her son's inability to control his spending.
"My son was not an angel," she said. "He spent like a drunken sailor. He is not without blame."
But, she adds, three years after her son's death, she still gets pre-approved credit card offers in Sean's name from some of the same companies that he owed thousands of dollars. One company pre-approved Sean for a $100,000 credit line, she said.
Psychology senior Jessica Lorraine got her first cards when she was a freshman. She got one on campus and one at the mall, she said.
She racked up $1,500 in debts, partly because her credit cards enabled impulse purchases, she said.
"If it was there and you wanted something, it was just easier to buy," she said.
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