Student Loans and the Conversation on More More More when We Probably Need Less

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My response to “The Solution to the Student-Loan ‘Crisis’? Depends on How You Define It” By Beckie Supiano JUNE 25, 2014

This is my response to the above article, and was originally a Facebook comment which became much to long to be posted (no one would read the whole thing). So I’ve taken that comment and posted it here. Thanks Pam for posting and getting my mind moving.

My response:

I just read this article and it kept popping up in my head “They already do this,” and “I knew what I was doing because they told me.” I am paying pretty high loan payments (more than my mortgage) but when I went through the process to get my masters of divinity I had to go through

(1) Thorough loan counseling and consultation with the financial aid office advisor, and then I had to read and sign documents that spelled out exactly what I would be responsible for in the future. They show you sliding scales of what payments would be like and you can add them up and you realize how much it’s going to be as you sign each year.

(2) When you hit a threshold going over 40k worth of loans, you go through a second round of counseling and you go through another consultation on top of the yearly discussion, in which you have to sign a document or write a letter stating you understand the weight of possible future payments. I laughed as I signed it because I felt like a child and knew that I would not have a masters if I didn’t do it. The weight was on me and I knew exactly what I was doing and my ministry trajectory and call required it.

(3) When you complete seminary, a third round of counseling begins and you consult about your payment plans and you get an exit strategy or loose plan. Payments are about to start in 6 months after graduation and you’re encouraged to engage the student load administrators and work out what kind of payment plan you can do. Income based repayment was on the table right away (but I was hired and didn’t have to take advantage of it). If I had not been hired I would have signed up for it right away.

Since then, I have had to go into forbearance once this year due to our first child’s, Ransom’s, birth. I called, all the possible consequence or lack thereof was explained. They recorded me agreeing to all the terms and it was done. While I don’t think the system is perfect, it was pretty flawless in the sense that it gave me money I needed to educate myself.

I still bear the weight with my wife (and it would sure be nice if suddenly the government said you’re good, don’t worry about it). It was so clear what I was doing. It is possible that I had a best case scenario, but if that’s the case, all the government would have to do is tighten up financial aid office practices and follow procedures already in place.

When it all comes down to it, I believe the best way to solve this issue is to stop giving student loans in the first place. Tuition inflation, after thinking about it a bit, I believe, is directly tied to the ability of our federal government to give credit at higher and higher levels. It is a bubble that will eventually burst. Educational institutions are riding this wave and are doing wonderful things with the money but an equilibrium will have to be made or a correction made by force (standard tuition rates for a certain education). I have benefited and I want more people to benefit but it can’t go on like this forever. Eventually tuition will outgrow our credit, the burden will be too great, and even the collective won’t be able to bear it. One thing is certain though – education and access to it has never been more important. I just wish we could do it without hemorrhaging the people who need it most and on the not unending credit line of our government.

I have both personal responsibility for my loans, and wish that tuition was a bit lower. It wasn’t, I received an amazing education, and I plan on paying it back as I am able and hopefully sooner than later.

Would it be nice to have nearly a grand a month back in my wallet to use for other expenses? Absolutely. We live at a lower level to pay it off. But was it worth it? Absolutely – short of beating me to death, it would be pretty hard for someone to come and steal what has been given to my mind heart and active hands for service to others.

A word of caution: not everyone can expect to be hired right out of school or seminary like I was. I hope that everyone listens carefully to their counselor and if a person of faith, discern deeply what the Spirit is calling you to do. With prices still rising, the cost to your future increases yearly. At some point people will have to step away from the system to let them know they’ve gone too far.


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