Student Debt is Killing the Church

One Trillion Dollars! U.S. student loans have reached a new high at the same time the economic prospects are reaching a new low for graduates. This isn’t just bad news for the students, their families, and future children – it is a serious problem for the church. Our students who are increasingly graduating with more and more debt will shape the future of the church. It seems that this issue needs to be treated as a justice issue across the country and as a genuine concern for our future risk-taking church leaders.  Here are five reasons school debt is threatening the future of the church.

  1. School Debt is Vocational Slavery. When you have a student loan payment of 300 dollars a month a bunch of jobs are off the table. It shouldn’t be a surprise that working for and with ‘the least of these’ are rarely financially lucrative. For example, if you just finished law school and gotta start payments you don’t get to advocate for immigrants or work for environmental justice, you gotta pay the bills.
  2. School Debt Kills Tithing. I know the math is obvious BUT if you are writing a big check every month for your student loans until you are 45 years old that is a bunch of money that previous generations had available to give to the church and its ministries. When fewer and fewer people have money available to give to a church certain people and their needs get priority and internally focused expenditures get priority over externally focused spending.
  3. School Debt Tames Prophets. You can have a conviction, a calling, and a platform but if you don’t have economic security for you and your family you can stay quiet, vague, and distracted from your convictions. In this past year I have received over 20 emails from ministers who said “I wish I was in a situation financially where I could say and work towards X.” X = some social justice issue God says we should care about. What is their main burden? Student loans and health care.
  4. School Debt Destroys Community. If you have to get a job that supports your family and your loans then you are more likely to have your check dictate where you move, when you work, and how long you work. This extra financial burden has led many of my friends to move away from their family and faith communities and take a job they hate at hours that eliminate growing new relationships in a new town. As a church this type of relational oppression is problematic and shouldn’t be accepted as part of the ‘game.’  The saddest part about this is our students are already indentured to the system before they are aware of what they are choosing.
  5. Student Debt Squelches Ecclesial Entrepreneurship. What stops a gifted and called minister from taking the risk and planting a new missional community? Purchasing her own health insurance and having to write student loan checks. When taking the risk of starting a community that connects and serves the generations most impacted by student debt it doesn’t help the church for both the planters and the congregants to be riddled with exorbitant student loans. If you are deciding between a risky entrepreneurial move and jumping through the hoops of your denominational superstructure for a benefit secure job it’s easy to see how student debt could turn the tide away from ecclesial entrepreneurship.

 

 

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47 comments
spencermaccuish
spencermaccuish

Great summary of the issue. I appreciate the genuine concern, but there is more work to be done on this issue, especially within the evangelical community. There is an interesting series examining various aspects of student debt over at http://facultyblog.eternitybiblecollege.com/. Exploring issues like why the cost of education is so high, what should a christian response be to student debt. What about christian colleges who are contributing to the debt load etc.

Will Elliott
Will Elliott

Thank you Homebrewed Theologians for raising this issue...

Solomon Rodriguez
Solomon Rodriguez

I agree with you Kevin! Those that decide to take a loan on anything should pay it back instead of whining about it. My Grandpa taught me that to be a Man you need to be responsible with finances and not blame others for your poor decisions.

Solomon Rodriguez
Solomon Rodriguez

The Church was here long before the problem of student debt and will be here long after. The Church is the people not a building or denomination so how can student debt. Ruin the Ecclesia "called out ones". All the church buildings in America may foreclose and the denominations may shut down but the True Church "the people" will still be here. Maybe in light of these economic times the Church needs to rethink what it's priorities should be. Instead of building a large meeting place with all the nice trappings they should keep it simple and when the congregation gets too big just splinter it off instead of adding structure to the existing building. The Church has also been a bad example to these students as they keep getting in debt with these huge mortgages for their buildings. I mean doesn't the bible talk against getting into debt.? Yet that’s what a mortgage is, Debt! Also why worry about tithing when that was an Old Testamant concept anyways. We have grace giving now!

Kevin
Kevin

Stephen, it appears that interest is the villain in the latest post not debt, debtors or creditors. i have no interest in arguing the morality of interest. what this post is talking about is debt. there is no mention of interest being the oppressor. if you borrow something isn't the intent to give it back? that is the point; that is the agreement. otherwise it is a gift. there is no double theology (whatever that is). remember this is all in the context of student loans. i think that is important. if you want to venture into other types of debts and the reasons therefore, our discussion will take different twists and turns. are you suggesting that the creditors who hold the loans cancel the debt? is this justice in your mind?

Stephen Keating
Stephen Keating

Kevin - sounds like you have a bit of double theology going there. Maybe you should check out the latest post?

Kevin
Kevin

i am nervous how this was casually labeled a "justice issue" who are we seeking justice from - the institutions of higher learning, the gov't, or high income earners who aren't paying enough in taxes? the irony is the name of this blog is "homebrewed christianity" - home brewing is a do it yourself, roll your sleeves up, figure it out, get dirty, trial and error, enjoy the fruit of your labor attitude. apply this to the student loan crisis instead of looking to the gov't for a handout. the church needs to be more educated and vocal when it comes to economics and financial decisions. we all know that the borrower is servant to the lender and that no debt should be left outstanding expect the debt to love one another. if we loved one another no one would be in debt. the church can take care of this in house. that would be an amazing witness. joining ows is not the answer.

Kevin
Kevin

what do you mean by "justice issue"? that suggestion makes me a little nervous. justice against the institutions? the government? the church should rise up and cancel the debt. individuals should reach into their own pocket to remedy the crisis. please don't reach into mine :)

Blake Harvey
Blake Harvey

I didn't get a cent for college from my parents. They tithe and give religiously to the church. As far as I'm concerned my tithing is repaying my student loans. The church should just be happy they don't have to pay the interest. Giving to the church is not a good reason for not investing in your child's future. Sorry, church. Maybe my kids will be able to give since I'm investing in their future, not some dumb building campaign. God comes first but church comes third after family!

dmf
dmf

in so much as "higher" ed increasingly embodies (currently being turned into corporate training and research centers) and fosters neoliberalism, or capitalism in general, its 'death' would be a good thing for the life-blood of the church, which is not itself bound by the financial economy but is choked by our yoking ourselves to monied interests. my experience is to the degree that seminaries are not just schools of theology but also schools of ministry they are by and large failing to help to develop adequate transformational leadership, in some ways the very needs that call for this blog point to their failures to connect cutting-edge theology to workable church shaping practices, leaving their students to fill in the gaps while trying to bear the additional weight of the resulting debt burden. I don't think that this secular model of professionalized/licensed/state-sanctioned christians has done well by the church among other things feeding into a system of authorized religious dealers and laity as religious consumers, and should be replaced by some kind of system of mentorship and ongoing/lifelong study. On another note if you find yourself unwilling to risk bearing witness because of fears of debt/poverty relating to student loans this will only get worse in terms of postgrad commitments and the finances of full-time ministry. "Radical" education should include reworking the very models of organization to better reflect the work at hand.

Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

@Kathleen thanks for the historical framing!

Kathleen McGregor
Kathleen McGregor

It is amazing to me that people will not read the article or the comments and righteously judge others. How nice for them. In a Nation article today, the paragraph that stood out said: "Since 1982 the cost of living has doubled and healthcare costs have tripled; college tuition and fees have exploded more than four times. All this comes amid revelations about the hundreds of billions in loans—at below-market rates—ladled out to the banks by the Federal Reserve and Treasury during the financial crisis." The fed has been effectively giving money to the banks for less than 1% interest for several years, in *addition* to bailing the banks out. In the meantime, they are making money hand over fist for lending at higher and in the case of credit cards, usury rates. Plus Congress was out to double interest rates for students. The lobbies are mighty powerful, and the money to fund the government and keep the tax rates low for the wealthy has to come from somewhere. Back in the eighties, before the Reagan tax cuts graduate fellowships were tax free. The way to do it is to find more sources of revenue. Now it is giving money to the banks and wants to charge students 30+ times more to borrow money. It does have implications for the church, *especially* if the government keeps expecting churches to pick up the slack for those who fall through the safety nets.

Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

@Greg. Thanks for sharing @Mich I agree! Ditto! I think @Justin is on a similar wave length. @Eric and that ilk seem omniscient about everyone else lives, spending patterns and the possibilities afforded to them. it would be awesome to be that smart. when i am I will try to be a sarcastic and dismissive jerk as well.

Justin
Justin

This problem goes deeper than a simple student debt problem. It is a problem that has been woven into the fabric to society. It is no longer possible to make a decent living without a college education. Sure, there are the long shot stories of the millionaire high school dropout, or business owners who have been successful without a college degree, but those cases are by far the exception, not the norm. Corporations have shifted the responsibility of training the work force to the education system, saving them billions of dollars in training costs (or according to these numbers a trillion dollars) that have been shifted to the college students. I spent $20,000 on my first trip through school and am close to paying off those loans, but due to a changing economic climate, have been forced to go back to school again to pursue a second degree, with the intention of continuing on to law school to increase my odds of getting into the career field I now want to pursue. I'm expecting to rack up about $40-50,000 more dollars in loans by the time I finish school. That will definitely take some jobs off the table. Working 40 hours a week plus going to school full time has greatly impacted the amount of time I'm able to dedicate to helping my church.

Eric
Eric

If I can just add my 2 cents. I NEVER respond to my blog topics, but this one irked me a little. I didn't have time to read all the comments, but I am sure I'm probably repeating someone else's sentiment, so sorry for any repetition. My wife and I are recent college grads with a combined student loan debt of $35K at the time we got married. One year later, we have $15K and we hope to be debt free in another year. We both work full time, live in a tiny one bedroom apartment, own cheap phones and drive 15 year old cars. We live on a tight budget, but after we get out of debt, we want to serve Jesus overseas. "Vocational Slavery?" Give me a break dude, sell you iPhone, eat less Panera and say hello to Goodwill and good bye to Urban Outfitters and quit whining.

Mich
Mich

2 points--Student Debt is part of the larger picture of failed Economic policies of the past 40 years--can you say Neoliberalism? 1. Education used to be funded by the State because it was viewed as common good--educated citizens make good citizens and a good labor force 2. Just about ALL public goods have been shifted over the past 40 years to private--ie no longer funded by the State and taxes but funded by DEBT--ie your debt is someone else's gain. In other words Education is no longer seen as a common good and part of being a good citizen; it's now seen as a Market for Profit. Very few people want to talk about income inequality and redistribution of income, but it's starting to change--ie OWS for starters. Things to do: Get out in the Street and join a protest. Also, there are MANY more organized community groups across the country that are actively fighting these failed economic policies including student debt

Greg Jarrell
Greg Jarrell

Two things: I think yoou are dead on about debt prohibiting ecclesial entrepreneurship. As someone who might be consider an entrepreneur in a missional community, I can tell you that for seven years, our community hass squeaked by, sans health insurance, telling ourselves that our simplicity is worth it for the joy of living with one another and our neighbors. And that is true, but if any of us had any sttudent debt, oour community would have collapsed long ago. Two, is this a place where the ongoing collapse of denominations is actually hurting? As a Baptist in NC, I never paid a cent for seminary because of the then robust Baptist foundations and resources available. Aand that wass only ten years ago.

Brian Stankich
Brian Stankich

Well said. Good prophetic keep-em accountable words. Thank you.

Christian
Christian

Unfortunately college, even state college, has become a business. Bigger, nicer buildings; Div 1 sports programs and exorbitant coaches salaries, outrageous college president salaries... more and more it's become about stuff and prestige and not as much about quality of the students' education. Now, I love college football as much as the next guy, but I cannot rationalize paying a college coach multiple millions a year when the overall student body can barely afford to attend, even with loans. My oldest daughter will be graduating HS next year, and I have no idea how she's going to be able to afford to go to college. You can tell our priorities are completely out of whack when education, at all levels, is one of the first things to face the ax when budget cuts come. Our founding fathers would be spinning in their graves if they saw the state of education in this country.

Jon Wasson
Jon Wasson

I wonder how many churches have a vested interest in the debt of its pastors. One of the things I am considering, when I leave seminary (which will be paid for by the denom, but I still have undergrad debt) will be to ask them to take on my student debt while I am serving the congregation as part of my compensation package. That way, the longer I stay committed to that particular community they also remain particularly committed to me. If I leave, I continue paying my loans. But if I stay for 10+ years, the church will have paid for my education. I know of other vocations that practice this form of loan forgiveness and payback. Why should the church also not practice it? Does anyone currently have something like this? What problems do you see with it?

Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

@Cameron makes me jealous! I like your "rather socialist to US" system. Much of the problem within the US is our growing inability to see how the entire country economically and democratically are better off with educated citizens. The more education is seen as simply a meant for the individual to make more money to crappier the education and cost have become.

Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

@Wes I know way too many people in your situation. I guess dying churches that don't want to do anything different will benefit from it though! lol @Jeff thanks for pointing out how the debt actually inhibits the students from doing their stage of "time of exploration, testing boundaries and seeking out passion." The last thing we need are less passionate people. That would be depressing!

Jeff
Jeff

Tripp, I'm disgusted by the story that my industry sells about higher ed - "it's a good investment so you should just spend the money". While it may certainly pay off, I think you explain exactly why that investment is problematic for our country, our communities and our young people. I've heard student debt called generational slavery, and I couldn't agree more. Youth is supposed to be a time of exploration, testing boundaries and seeking out passion but many of us are tied to tremendous amounts of money and loan payments that make that search impossible. Instead we're tied to a desk taking the job that gives us enough money to get by and pay off these loans. I really question that investment logic anyway since the principal is hardly the actual amount of money that we're paying in, and at least during the loan term, the investment becomes a burden more than a blessing. But I digress.. I hadn't really thought about it in regards to the church until I read this, but I totally agree with what you've said, the damage to community and the aforementioned vocational slavery being the main issues.

Wes Ellis
Wes Ellis

I'm paying over $600 a month in student loans... too much for a youth pastor's salary. And while the blame belongs on my shoulders (I knew how much I was borrowing), It took getting that expensive education for me to learn that it was a bad choice-- for all the reasons you listed, especially because it takes many jobs off the table. And, for that, I don't regret getting that education. It has truly shaped me. But I know that it will take me years and years to recover. And I know that I am enslaved to the necessity of money-making and I am that much more disconnected from "the least of these." This is definitely a problem and I'm glad that people are talking about it.

Rev. William A. Secrest
Rev. William A. Secrest

I appreciate what I have read but the truth of the matter is that too many students naively go in thinking that I need this education or that degree. Serving the Lord has many costs and one of those is education. That being said, consider how much debt you are willing to accept before it is too much to bear. It took me 9 years to complete by Bachelors and Master of Divinity back to back. I only had $10,000 dollars in student loan debt when I completed both degrees. However, my wife and I had accumulated over 20,000 dollars in credit card debt over the last decade. I have been in ministry for ten years and we began the Dave Ramsey program a year ago. We have knocked out a significant amount of debt and we are living within our means. You all can do it but you have to pick your priorities. I spent too many years not having a plan for how my money should be spent. You have to have a plan for where every dollar will go. The sooner you do this the better off you will be and the quicker you will be out of debt. While my church does not know my financial debt amounts, I have preached often that everyone needs a plan (budget) for how they spend their money. Do it now before you are in too deep. Rev. Bill Secrest

ed cyzewski
ed cyzewski

One of the tough angles for Christian colleges and seminaries is that the only way to fund a school without tuition and loans is to raise more money from donors. When you're bringing in more donors, you've got more donors trying to control the shape of the education and the rules. Just look at Taylor University's ban on dancing and drinking. Everything else about that school is really with it, but heaven help the student who gets happy feet or the professor who sips a glass of wine... The donors to the school are the only reason I can think of that a school would keep those kinds of rules. I know seminary profs who have shared first hand how major donors have put pressure on the administration to make certain changes.

Cameron
Cameron

In Australia we have a jubilee system, of sorts. I'm not sure how it applies to post graduate work though---I haven't yet had the time to pursue more than bachelor level education. Here, the majority of the student fee is covered by the government on approved courses at accredited institutions. The cost to the student depends on the nature of the course, and is determined by government policy. Now, the student can elect to pay the cost of each unit up front (and get a pretty nice discount) or she can elect to pay it later. If they elect to pay it later: * the loan isn't subject to interest, but is adjusted according to the CPI every year; * It is processed as an extra payment on top of income tax; * the payment is calculated as a percentage of taxable income for the year; * the exact percentage is determined by a sliding scale; * for the first few tens of thousands of dollars the percentage is 'zero', meaning that you don't pay anything until you are earning a reasonable amount; * if you die before you've paid the loan off, the balance is forgiven, so your heirs don't have to pay your student loan. Moreover, there are government benefits available to help with living costs. I'm not sure if it still exists, but when I did my first degree I was able to get a supplementary loan on top of the cost of living allowance which operated in a similar fashion to the fee loan. The main difference was that my heirs would be liable to pay it back if I died before it was paid. I'm sure this system sounds rather socialist to US based readers, but the system was set up in order to make sure our nation was well educated and that entry to university was determined by academic ability, not ability to pay. The system has been chipped away at over the years and I'm sure there are many who would like to see the introduction of a US-style system. Oh yeah, my denomination pays a pittance, and the house and car they give me aren't considered taxable. I graduated from my first degree 17 years ago and I still haven't paid a cent of tuition!

Steven Hunter
Steven Hunter

School debt is also optional. When a person decides to go to school, they should choose based on economy and not prestige. A degree is what you make out of it, and not the other way around. I have an unaccredited bachelors, but was accepted by an accredited institution and have completed my masters. I am now working on my doctorate, so I have kept my debt to a minimum -- which is still a lot, but not as much as most. However, I began working before I began school, so I built some skills so that I could support myself while going through school. Once I was hired by a congregation, I asked that they chip in on my tuition. Therefore, my undergrad did not cost me anything. I have paid for my graduate work, but it will amount to a lot less than most undergraduate degrees because I've worked and gone to school full time while having a family. It has not been easy, but I have a supportive wife and children who have sacrificed with me. We don't drive new cars and we have no other debt. I would recommend to anyone that they work throughout school to develop skills (e.g., social, marketing, etc.) and drink a lot of coffee :)

Joe BW Smith
Joe BW Smith

Thank you for posting this. Once again, the church is behind the curve. On the other side of the student loan story, I can say that my household made it out of student loan debt (with two seminary students), barely. I was 41 when I made my last payment last year. We received some support on the way. The South Dakota Synod (ELCA) made a few lump sum payments toward my principal through a scholarship program. My wife and I made a plan to get out of debt. I say "barely" because we knocked off most of our debt while the economy was still favorable and we both had ministry positions that paid a living wage. With freedom from debt, I have taken a congregation that can't pay me what I'm worth, but I have a lot of freedom to take a few more risks. We can't live like this forever, but I'm glad we have the opportunity to make that kind of decision. It's tough getting out of debt. I would love to continue my education, but there's no way I'm willingly jumping back into that kind of debt again. Peace to all of you who carry that burden. I will never forget what that is like.

Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

Ohhhh just to clarify....I certainly meant to include theological education but most of the points connect to all Christians serving in different vocations. The church may even be better off if its lawyers, physicians, teachers, etc weren't vocationally saddled with debt.

Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

@Dustin I think your path is making more sense. Especially if more churches and ministers take up mentoring models and such to expand the skills. Thanks for mentioning that what we are doing helps. That is definitely one of the reasons we make the podcasts. @Jim That sounds like a great plan. Sharing how your church does it when y'all get it structured could encourage more churches to follow suit.

Steward Jim
Steward Jim

As a parent of three current or former students, including a Divinity student at Wake Forest, I can assure you that I fully understand this problem. As the Steward of my Congregation (fancy name for treasurer) I am called to explore ways to use God's gifts to us. We will soon have a Pastoral Resident, and while no one has yet discussed a Student Loan Repayment program for him, it is certainly something that we could, and should consider. It would be relatively easy to add a Student Loan Repayment program into his letter of call, where the church would gift him with say, $2500 a year at the completion of each year of service, for a maximum of $10,000 over 4 years. There are also Federal Loan Forgiveness programs for people working for non-profit organizations. I'm not sure if these would apply to ministers. but here is a link to the program: http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/attachments/siteresources/LoanForgivenessv4.pdf

Dustin Brown
Dustin Brown

My situation is the opposite of what you're describing, yet none the less constricting. Coming from a lower income family and being raised to fear debt with every fiber of my being, I opted to go to a small church-based bible college before venturing into ministry. Now that I want expand my education garter tasting the brew!) beyond my two-year cursory Bible knowledge, I face a tough choice. Do I risk my family's future by taking on bone-cruising debt so I can talk and minister more effectively and intelligently (and hopefully even teach future students) or do I just keep plodding along, learning what I can, but continuing to be unable to address the social, economic, and theological concerns within my tradition? I guess ultimately, it just sucks feeling stuck and unable to pursue what's really on your heart. (Sorry for the "christiany" lingo. That's the best ways could think to express it :) )

Joel Crevier
Joel Crevier

More apocalyptic fear regarding the future of the Church? Maybe its just the heading that set me off, but the church has been around for 2000+ years. I don't think its future is contingent on something like student debt. Is college a bet? Sure. But God is going to continue to call faithful people to ministry positions of various sorts regardless of rising student debt.

Aric Clark
Aric Clark

Very well articulated Tripp. All of these things are true in my case, and I do believe Jubilee is the proper prescription. In the meantime, there are some ways to handle the load for some people. I have consolidated my loans and applied for Income Based Repayment, which will extend the amount of time I am paying and possibly result in me paying more in total, but frees me up at this time to pursue vocational options which aren't as high salary. With Income Based Repayment your debt after 25 years is forgiven - which is a long time, but it is something.

Stephen Keating
Stephen Keating

John - so if this is all just the bad choices of individuals, how do you explain the systemic nature of the problem? Did all of America's students individually make bad choices. Are all those "choices" completely unrelated to one another? A robust notion of freedom does not just mean freedom from making bad choices, there must be a positive notion that allows people to make positive choices. Bill Gates and I are both negatively "free" to buy a million dollar yacht, but only one of us has the positive freedom that is necessary to make that happen.

Dan Hauge
Dan Hauge

When it comes down to it this isn't just about loans, but about the entire economic structure of how we do education. I wonder how you feel about programs like the DMin at Bakke Graduate University, trying to offer education at a lower cost outside of the institutional university system. Seems the issue of accreditation often comes up.

Marty Troyer
Marty Troyer

Tripp, Great stuff. You are writing to, and about me. As a pastor, building up the level of trust with a congregation so that you can speak, work, minister as you feel called is essential, and a hell of a lot easier said than done. But I have reaped the benefit of said trust. It is more important that young folks follow their dreams, do what they feel called, speak as they feel called to speak. We can't control what any church or anyone does (including dismissing us from ministry). We can only control ourselves, follow our calling. I for one would LOVE to have my loans paid off by the time I'm 45! No way that'll happen though. Oh, 1 more thing, it neuters my voice as a leader in the christian community to speak about tithing, finances, etc... when I can barely give anything to my own church. Thanks! Marty Troyer

John
John

Shirking responsibility. Don't go to schools you can't afford. It's not my problem that others chose schools and took vacations on their student loans. Why should I have to pay for their bad choices? Totally immoral. Student loan debt is a plague on the church but for none of the reasons you mention... It's a plague because we are unwise in how we spend our money!

shawn
shawn

I'd like to throw into the mix that having giant debt load may take a toll not only on the viability of serving the underserved, but also on the heart of the person originally oriented toward service. Burdening someone with a huge debt load seems to be rich soil for growing a personal sense of entitlement...It's contributing to the health care crisis as well...

Jason Stewart
Jason Stewart

I especially like the "indentured to the system before they are aware of what they are choosing" part. Speaking from experience, people in their late teens and early twenties are very impressionable and confused about what they're going to do with their life. All of the choices they are told are "right" (go to college even if you have to take out massive loans, buy a house, etc. etc. ) end up locking them into a system they later realize they have no desire to be apart of. One or two choices that you make in your teens end up defining the next 30 years of your life. It's a horrible system. On the flip side though, most of my friends who never got any sort of college education are even worse off. Though the college->career route is very restrictive and confining if you don't come from a wealthy family at least it does give you health care (usually) and pay enough to live on (usually). I can't tell you how often I watch people struggle with pneumonia or some sort of infection for months and months because they have maybe $15 dollars in liquid assets after they pay their monthly bills and buy food. It's very very difficult to live on minimum wage.

Jacqui
Jacqui

Elijah, I'm in a similar situation. Having finished a masters a few years ago and racking up massive amounts of debt (@Tripp, I wish it was only $300 a month. Mine closely rival my parents' mortgage.) I'm currently working public sector in homelessness and housing policy. I've also been spending a ton of hours doing ministry/volunteer work in deeply disadvantaged urban community. I'm now trying to transition into that work full-time, but my options have been limited in because I'm so strapped by student loan payments. I've guilted myself over it at times, trying to convince myself that if I'm truly following a calling, I should have the faith that God will provide, which may be true to an extent. But I've luckily also had a wise pastor advise me that there are very real Kingdom implications attached to sufficient paychecks and the guilt is unnecessary. I'll tell you one thing, though. We've definitely stopped pushing our urban youth toward college as the epitomical benchmark for success. It was leaving far too many of them in the same bind we're in.

Tripp Fuller
Tripp Fuller

@elijah. I really don't have a bunch of ideas. I was hoping people might suggest some. One real issue is that those who are encouraged to seek theological education end up with loans and the limits they impose before they realize what they've done. That is in part an issue churches and denominations need to address. That said I think the church should advocate a student loan Jubilee for all Americans!

elijah
elijah

As a seminary student 2/3 through his degree program and on the edge of joining a burgeoning missional community in a low-income, immigrant community while I finish my final classes, I agree with all that you have written here. What is your proposed solution?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] We all have to pay our debts right? Isn’t that the moral thing to do? This is so self-evidently true to us that it seems ludicrous for anyone to challenge it. But that’s exactly what David Graeber does in his important book Debt: The First 5,000 Years. I’ve been doing a series of posts on the book over on my personal blog and Tripp asked me to follow up his post on student loan debt. [...]