sealPurdue Business & Finance Briefs

August 1997

Some college credit is undesirable, finance expert says

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Parents can add credit cards to the list of grades, peer pressure and other things they worry about when their son or daughter leaves for college.

A Purdue University professor says parents need to discuss credit management with their children before the students head off to school, even if the children don't have credit cards. She says chances are good they'll get one at school.

"When the students get to campus, they are bombarded with credit card offers," says Charlene Sullivan, associate professor of management. "Often these cards are offered along with free stuff, like T-shirts, travel perks and soft drinks. As a parent, I would tell my child to buy his own soft drinks and stay out of debt."

Sullivan says it's a good idea for students to have one credit card for occasional use and emergencies. And she says she believes that young adults should learn how to use credit responsibly. But she suggests that the card be issued from a hometown bank and be subject to parental monitoring.

"The trouble starts when students are issued their own credit cards with huge lines of credit and they begin to live beyond their means," Sullivan says. "It's easy to do and can snowball very quickly."

For instance, if a student racks up a balance of $1,000 at 18 percent annual interest, he's paying an average of $15 per month in interest. If he only makes the $10 per month minimum payment, the balance will actually increase each month.

From a business perspective, Sullivan says, students are a very desirable target for credit card companies.

"The assumption is that college graduates eventually will have an above-average income and be more future and investment oriented," Sullivan says. "So, if I were a credit card marketer, I would think, what better pool to put my fishing pole into?"

The truth, according to Sullivan, is that many college graduates are starting their careers with a lot of debt.

"I know a parent whose son had $25,000 in credit card debt when he graduated from college," Sullivan says. "He finally had to tell his parents, who helped him restructure the credit with a lower rate to keep their son from filing bankruptcy. Students don't realize how credit trouble can follow them. If you have poor credit, it can affect your housing options and your ability to buy a car, and some employers even check credit records to see how an applicant has handled his finances."
CONTACT: Sullivan, (765) 494-4382; e-mail,

Study finds no connection between fast food and obesity

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. --Some good news is out this week for the fast food industry. A comparison of data on fast-food consumption and rising obesity has found a surprising wrinkle: There doesn't appear to be much of a link, at least in terms of large populations.

James Binkley, associate professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, used state-by-state data to examine one bit of dogma in the war on weight -- that the nation's increasing fast-food consumption is partly to blame for the widespread rise in adult obesity. He found that "states that have a lot of fast-food sales aren't the states that the Centers for Disease Control say have weight problems."

Binkley presented his findings in July at the annual meeting of the Western Agricultural Economics Association in Reno, Nev. The research was funded by Purdue.

"One conclusion that I would derive from this data is that changing exercise habits could be more to blame than diet," Binkley says. "It may be couch potatoes, not french fries, that are the heart of the problem."

There is little doubt that obesity is a burgeoning problem in the United States. Between 1960 and 1991, the number of adults who were overweight increased from 25 percent to 33 percent, according to the U.S. government's 1995 "Third Report on Nutrition Monitoring in the United States, Volume I."

Binkley compared data from the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveys with the 1992 Census of Retail Trade using data for states and regions. This data was compared with the prevalence of fast-food restaurants in these states and regions.

The general assumption in media reports and among some nutritionists is that fast food leads to obesity, Binkley says. That is what Binkley expected to find when he compared the data. "It wouldn't have surprised me to find that there isn't any relationship at all at this level," he says. "But what we found was a slightly negative association. There certainly wasn't a positive relationship."

In other words, people living in states with high numbers of fast-food outlets were slightly less likely to be obese than people living in states with fewer fast-food outlets, according to the study.

Taking the study one step further, Binkley then compared the CDC data with the 1990 Sales Area Marketing Inc. data on warehouse grocery sales. Again, he found little correlation between types of food consumption and obesity.

"Actually, I couldn't find much of a relationship at all between long-term dietary changes and increasing obesity," Binkley says.
CONTACT: James Binkley, (765) 494-4261; e-mail,

Yikes, spikes! Metal cleats unwelcome at many golf courses

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A photo of spikeless golf shoes is available from Purdue New Service, (765) 494-2096. Ask for the photo called Reicher/Spikes.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The wrong kind of shoes could spike that big deal you hope to close on the links this afternoon.

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Photo caption below

Golfers wearing metal golf spikes are banned from 1,600 golf courses nationwide, according to Kelly Elbin, vice president of marketing for Softspikes, the leading manufacturer of alternative spikes.

Zac Reicher, co-director of Purdue University's Turfgrass Diagnostic and Research Center, says that alternative or nonmetal spikes are a change that golfers are going to have to get used to. The reason is simple: Alternative spikes are good for golf turf.

"There is a substantial agronomic benefit to using alternative spikes," Reicher says. "They just don't rip up the turf as much. Traditional spikes not only jab a piece of metal into the plants, they get jagged from walking on concrete and gravel. These small burrs on the spikes tear grass leaves even faster."

Theoretically, using alternative spikes means that there is less need for chemicals to fight pests, so there is something of a general environmental benefit to using alternative spikes, too.

For golfers, the inconvenience of replacing metal spikes in golf shoes will be offset by improved course conditions, Reicher says. "Traditional golf shoes leave spike marks. Late in the day, the greens on any course are bumpy from all of the spikes. If you watch the television coverage of tournaments, even the Masters has spike marks on the greens at the end of the day," he says. "But at the end of the day at a course that doesn't allow metal spikes, the greens are still smooth."

Despite the advantages, many golfers have been reluctant to change to plastic cleats because of concerns about slipping during the golf swing. According to Reicher, this may have been a legitimate concern three or four years ago, but not now. "There have been dramatic advances in the quality of alternative spikes in the past three years," he says. "The new spikes last longer and are more stable to play on."

An independent research study funded by Softspikes found that the company's original cleat provided 72 percent of the traction of a metal spike during the golf swing, and that the company's latest offering, the Extra Performance cleat, provides 93 percent of the traction of metal spikes.

"But to be honest with you, if you are playing in the middle of the afternoon in the summer during dry weather, most golfers can get enough traction just by wearing tennis shoes," Reicher says. "But golfers should never wear softball or soccer rubber cleats on the course."

CONTACTS: Reicher (765) 494-9737; e-mail,
Elbin (800) 638-0075

Photo caption

Many golfers are replacing the metal cleats in their golf shoes with nonmetal or alternative cleats, like the ones shown here. More than 1,500 U.S. golf courses have banned metal spikes because they tear up the turf on golf courses, says Purdue turf expert Zac Reicher. (Ag Communications Photo by Jessica Fickle.)

Color photo, electronic transmission, and Web and ftp download available. Photo ID: Reicher/Spikes
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Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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