If you’ve read our blog consistently or if you’re familiar with the vision of our school, you already know that we’re pretty passionate about the student debt issue. It’s killing missionary passion before they can even get to the field, it’s shackling our future Christian leaders, and it’s generally debilitating our nation.
Recently, Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, spoke out against educational debt during the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee and was quoted as saying,
“If your concern is to get young people into the churches or on the mission fields, the greatest enemy other than Satan himself is educational debt, because there are far too many young people graduating who are slaves to that debt when they need to be unfettered slaves to Christ.”
If you’re interested, you can read the rest of the Baptist Press Article.
We got curious and decided to investigate further into the financial aid practices of SBTS. It sounds like Dr. Mohler agrees with us that this is a vitally important issue, so we wondered if any students are graduating from his school with debt, and if so, how many. The statistics for a graduate degree from the seminary show that it’s extremely affordable at an estimated $4,360 a year. The publicly available statistics we found involving debt are related to Boyce College, the undergraduate college of SBTS. The total expenses for a full-time beginning undergraduate student in 2011-12 range from an estimated $16,570 to $21,670 a year, with an average net price of $18,877 according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The school does not participate in the the Federal Student Loan Program known as Title IV, and we applaud them for that unconventional position. 41% of all undergraduate students at the school receive aid in the form of grants and scholarships that do not need to be repaid. But how many of the students in attendance receive aid in the form of other loans (debt) to attend the school?
Among full-time beginning undergraduate students, the answer is 20%. The average amount of aid received by that 20% is $10,354 each, which is about half to two-thirds the cost of attendance according to the estimated expenses listed previously. You can check these numbers at the NCES Financial Aid Report for the school. I know what you might be tempted to think. 20% isn’t a large percentage. It’s a lot less than most other schools, but it’s still debt. If this issue is so import to Dr. Mohler, then why does the school direct students to apply for loans from Sallie Mae, Fifth Third Bank and KHEAA? Why even provide the option? They won’t direct you to accept federal funding, but they’ll direct you to borrow from a bank. And if a bank is an unfavorable option to you, they will allow you to obtain a loan directly from the school with an annual interest rate of 7%. All this is made clearly available on both the Seminary Student Loan Page and the College Student Loan Page of their website.
We applaud Dr. Mohler and agree with him that educational debt is an enemy that the church and Christian institutions of higher education need to fight. We admire his courage for standing up and speaking out against this problem. We are encouraged that SBTS is more affordable than many other schools like it. We wonder if the school would consider going further, and reducing the costs even more? We would also like to take this opportunity to call on all other Christian Institutions of Higher Learning to ask for consistency and a demonstration that the issue is important enough to say to your students, “You can decide on your own whether you will take out a loan to attend our school, but we will not encourage you or help you do it.” We are asking schools to stand with us and demonstrate with your policies and practices that which you idealistically espouse from your speaking platforms. When will more theological schools and colleges stand up and say, “We will do everything in our power to train leaders, and help them graduate debt free”? Dr. Mohler, will you help lead the charge to change your school’s written and publicly advertised student loan policies to reflect the inspiring words you delivered about educational debt? We agree with you and we’re praying God will give you, your board, and your administrators the courage and the financial provision to continue this fight! We hope that leaders of other Christian Colleges will follow this example and demonstrate the same courage and commitment to send graduates out into the world to accomplish God’s mission – debt free.