Archives For Student Loans

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.

Al MohlerIf 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.

Throughout the series of posts on The Student Debt Crisis we collected answers to five questions from thirty three people. You can click on each image to see larger versions of them.

Any thoughts?

While the previous posts have been discussing higher education in general and considering possible Christian responses, this post will focus on Christian Colleges and Universities. First, I want to acknowledge that these institutions are endeavoring to do a great thing in providing a solid, biblically based education. But that does not mean that they are doing it well, or even properly. The question needs to be asked: Are Christian higher education institutions remaining faithful to Jesus?

A few months ago, Christianity Today devoted an entire issue to the topic of Christian Higher Education, titling it How to Save the Christian College. It contained many helpful articles for anyone interested or involved in the development and maintenance of higher education institutions. It was also informative and thought provoking for anyone who’s been considering whether they should even go to college, and especially a Christian College.

The cover story, written by Perry L. Glanzer and titled The Missing Factor in Higher Education, claims that the missing factor is character development. The historic universities gave up their quest for truth and the moral/ethical/spiritual formation of students in favor of creating information specialists. Students no longer go to college to get a well-rounded education to benefit them in all aspects of their life. They go to learn the necessary information to succeed in a particular career. But he believes there is still hope for Christian Higher Education as it looks to its roots and renews interest and focus on cultivating wisdom and character in students.

As great as many Christian colleges are at providing good character forming education, we must also examine the structures and methods by which that education is being delivered. Is it God honoring to create an institution that is built on the backs of people going into tens of thousands of dollars in debt? Is this something that is carefully considered and concluded that it is God pleasing? Or, is such a model simply acquiescing to the world’s approach to what education is? What do you think? Does the end justify the means?