Archives For Student Debt

Eternity Bible College GraduationIn the unrelenting stream of life, the significance of each event, each person, each thing often goes unappreciated. Milestones help us to pause and take stock of what has happened and why it matters.

This weekend’s graduation marks ten years of Eternity Bible College. I’ve been here for eight of those ten years, and looking back, I can testify that God has done amazing things. This weekend we hosted a vision banquet, where we celebrated what God has done and looked forward to what we believe God wants to do through Eternity.

In the midst of lectures, meetings, projects, grading, and all of the other consistent aspects of my job, the significance of it all sometimes hides just out of sight. I’m thankful for this milestone because it forced me to stop, look around, and remember that God has been working in miraculous ways.

I was reminded of the transformed lives we’ve sent out across the world. Of the supernatural financial provision that has carried us to this point. Of the unbelievably gifted staff, faculty, board members, students, and supporters of many kinds that God has brought to the school.

Perhaps best of all, I was so encouraged to see that God has taken the mission of Eternity Bible College and has been making that into a reality. Our graduates are able to bring transformation into so many areas of society, all around the world. Our graduates are able to work hard and graduate without being crippled by student debt—94% of our students have graduated debt free, and the remaining 6% have less than $2,000 to pay off. All of this has been happening in close partnership with local churches around the world, and our graduates are leaving with a passionate commitment to the church.

Looking back at these first ten years makes me very excited for the Kingdom of God. If you resonate with the mission of Eternity Bible College, I’d encourage you to take a look at one or more of the short videos below. We showed these at our vision banquet this weekend, and they tell the story of Eternity from a few different angles. If you’d like to partner with us in some way, please visit our partnership page. And thanks to everyone who has supported the school in so many ways over these past ten years!

Art Night 051This weekend we hosted our annual Art & Music Benefit. You and I both knew I would say this, but it was an amazing night. Many of our students, graduates, and other friends of the school displayed and sold their art for the event. Three great bands featuring some of our students and alumni played. We had great crafts and baked goods. And we had a great turnout!

So I’m posting to thank everyone who took part in the event, because an event like that matters. It matters because art matters. Nothing connects us with our humanity like good art. It reminds us that while we’re on this earth, we find this world meaningful, and we explore that (often elusive) meaning in passionate and creative ways. Art reminds us that others are wrestling with the human experience as well, and it offers us an opportunity to see with their eyes. It allows us to step into their joys, sorrows, and questions. So thank you to all of the musicians, artists, bakers, and crafters who made Friday night a deeply human experience.

Friday night’s event also matters because Eternity Bible College matters. As we shared at the event, our passion is to see this generation trained to discover the riches of biblical truth and to creatively apply that truth in every area of their lives. Art Night 052We saw a taste of this played out in the art on display, and we shared about other students and graduates who are pursuing God’s glory and furthering his kingdom in traditional ministry and in a host of other creative ways. So thank you to everyone who came out to support the school and to affirm that art and music created by Bible students matters! We believe that it matters, and we were encouraged to discover that you think so as well.

If you’d like to see photos from the night, including some of the art on display, click on the images in the gallery below. If you’d like to see the videos we played during the event, scroll to the bottom of the page. And if you would like to invest in what we are doing with Eternity Bible College, click here. We charge our students roughly half of what it costs us to train them because an essential part of our mission is sending them out into the world without the shackles of student debt. To make up the rest of the cost of fulfilling our mission, we depend on the sacrificial investments of people who are also committed to the mission.

 

As many of you know, Eternity Bible College is not your typical college. One of the most unique things about the school is that we are committed to graduating students debt free.

A recent article reports that “since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, the amount of outstanding federal student loan debt owed to the government has skyrocketed, increasing by 463 percent.” Currently, America’s student debt stands at $674,580,000,000.00. Yikes!

When Francis Chan started Eternity, he saw the vicious cycle of how student debt cripples Christians from furthering the kingdom. To be a missionary, for instance, Invest in Eternityyou’ve got to get training, which includes some sort of Bible education. To get solid Bible education, you’ve got to pay $30,000-50,000 a year to learn the Bible at most Christian universities. After graduating, you apply to a sending agency only to get told that you have too much debt to be sent overseas. Now, you’ve got to work for the next 10 (or 30) years to pay off your student debt so that you can go overseas. But in reality, you never leave. Mission stifled.

The same cycle rears its ugly head for pastors and lay leaders. We tell them to get trained and then pay them a modest wage that doesn’t cover the $800/month (for 30 years) loan payment they’re enslaved to.

Now, smart students who get scholarships or who come from rich families who foot the bill are exempt from this cycle. But from Genesis to Revelation, the kingdom of God is rarely furthered by people who are smart or come from rich families. The 12 thugs Jesus called apostles are case in point. And they turned the world upside down.

John Dickerson points out in his book The Great Evangelical Recession that the evangelical church is facing a financial crisis. We’ve built unsustainable ways of doing church and unless we learn to run things much more efficiently, many churches and organizations are going to crumble over the next 20 years. Meanwhile, tuition costs at most evangelical schools continue to soar, and student debt continues to rise.

The problem doesn’t just apply to pastors and missionaries. In fact, most of our students at Eternity do not aspire to be full-time pastors or over-seas missionaries. Most end up working secular jobs upon graduation and become lay-leaders and chanservants in their local churches. But being freed from the vicious debt-cycle furthers their mission as well. Because now, these graduates do not scramble around finding high-paying jobs in order to pay off debt. Now, they seek out a secular job because they see that job as a mission field.

For instance, one recent graduate named Alise is an artist. And now after graduating, she’s been equipped to apply a rich biblical worldview to art. If she was enslaved to her school debt, then Alise would need to pursue one of two things upon graduation: A rich husband or a high paying job. Reaching the art community, or producing theologically rich art, would be nothing more than pipe dream realized in the finger paintings of her future kids tacked on the refrigerator door (“That’s a nice painting, sweetheart, but does it really reflect the Imago Dei?”).

Fortunately, Alise graduated debt free. And so she moved into an art district in downtown Portland, where she lives missionally—producing art and rubbing shoulders with artists. The gospel has wiggled its way into a dark pocket of society,

Alise Hay, a servant of Christ and graduate of Eternity Bible College

Alise Hay, a servant of Christ and graduate of Eternity Bible College

through the brush and paint of a creative student with a dream. Mission advanced.

We want to keep graduating students like Alise, who can apply the gospel to every vocation, regardless of whether such a vocation shells out enough dough to pay off a pile of student debt.

Come partner with us!

Eternity is currently running an end of the year campaign to help support our mission. If you desire to partner with us financially, please visit http://eternitybiblecollege.com/campaign/. All of your donations are tax-deductible and will be used efficiently to train our students, like Alise, to live and die well.

2013-14 Giving Campaign

A recent editorial piece in Christianity Today written by Mark Galli titled “Higher Ed at a Crossroad” caught our collective attention at Eternity Bible College. The article presents the case of a particular seminary to exemplify ways Christian Colleges may provide a high quality, low cost education with an emphasis on the importance of the local church.

Money TrapWe strongly believe in making quality biblical education affordable and accessible to the local church, and have actually already implemented many of the suggestions Galli makes. We believe that we exist to serve the local church. Therefore, we work hard to keep our costs low so students can graduate debt-free, and be available for whatever assignment God may have for them without the ball-and-chain of debt. Tuition at Eternity is $175 per credit hour. The total cost of tuition for a 4-year bachelor’s degree at Eternity is $22,400. The average tuition per year at private non-profit colleges is $35,000. That means students can earn a 4-year degree at Eternity for about 65% of the cost of attending most other colleges for only one year!

We are assuming demand, since most of our faculty are full time ministry practitioners serving in local churches, and they know the needs of the local church. We have our entire degree program online, so that students can stay in their local church and still get a high caliber Bible education. We even offer our Introduction to Discipleship Counseling class for-credit at no cost.

We have also taken material from our college-level courses, focused on the key points, and presented them simply and attractively through our Silo Project.These self-paced mini-courses work well for those who want to learn about the Bible, theology, and ministry but don’t want to mess around with college credit. They can also be easily incorporated into Small Groups or Adult Fellowships.

All of our students are required to be actively serving in a local church. We see our mission as equipping men and women to serve in the local church, and recognize that they need to be doing it as they are getting their education, not after they get it. We work hard to avoid the artificial ‘Bible College Bubble’ by having a very small and efficient campus, no dorms (students have to live in the ‘real world’), and even encourage students to live near their church and commute to classes. While serving in their local churches, every student is required to have mentor. Through these mentor relationships we are able to assess the spiritual growth of students and learn how they are applying their knowledge in real life service to the world, through the church.

We are finding that many churches are excited about why we do what we do, and how we do it. If you are part of a church who wants to join in this shift in Biblical Higher Education, we have many ways you can partner with us.

We are thankful that Mark Galli and others are calling our attention to a growing and immense problem in biblical higher education. And we are pleased to let you know that at least one school in the U.S. is doing something about it as well!

Most of us could think of a lot reasons for not becoming missionaries. Some of these reasons may be legitimate. Many will probably be excuses. Today I’m going to share the story of one of my co-workers. Kristen’s reason for staying off the mission field is mind-boggling.

Indian SlumsWhile serving on a short-term missions trip in India, Kristen saw Christians effectively ministering to people in the slums by teaching them English. She thought, “I can do that—maybe this is how you want to use me, Lord.”

Logically, her first step was to get trained to teach and to be a missionary. So she attended a well-known, prestigious Christian college. Kristen loved her college experience and felt genuinely prepared for years of ministry ahead. She saved a ton of money by completing two years of her education at a junior college, so she only had to foot the bill for two years of Christian higher education.

After finishing her degree in education, she moved back home to get to know the Bible a little better by studying at Eternity Bible College. She was following the responsible, textbook path to the mission field.

But then she looked at her financial situation. Her two years of Christian training left her in significant debt, and the time had come to pay up. God providentially opened up a position for Kristen at Eternity Bible College as the Assistant Registrar, and she has been a huge blessing to all of us. God has also opened up her heart to continuing her ministry with the college students here. So Kristen’s story has a happy “ending” (of course, the story continues), and God has faithfully led her every step of the way.

But the dark side of the story is the reality that if Kristen was still convinced that her calling was to the mission field, she would not be able to follow that calling. Why? Because she got trained for ministry.

Does that sound a bit off? Before a missionary leaves the country, he or she works hard to partner with churches and individuals who are willing to support the ministry overseas. But if that missionary was trained at a typical Christian college, he or she could not even begin the hard work of raising those funds until the nearly impossible task of paying off many tens of thousands of dollars in student debt had been settled.

Here’s where the shameless plug comes in. One of the reasons that Francis Chan and his team started Eternity Bible College was the problem of student debt. They saw potential missionaries being turned away by sending agencies because of outstanding student loans. The world needs schools that can train Christians for effective ministry without binding them hand and foot with financial fetters.

Let me insist that it is not easy to train students for $175 per unit. We all—board, staff, faculty, students, supporting churches and individuals—make big sacrifices to make it happen. But stories like Kristen’s assure us that what we are doing is essential.

Watch the video below to hear more about Kristen’s story, and visit our site to learn more about partnering with us or studying at Eternity.

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