Union not in top list of Adventist colleges with worst student debt

Stefani Leeper

This year, Union College managed to stay out of the list of Adventist schools whose students graduate with the worst debt.

According to US News, as shared with the Clocktower news staff by Union College’s Director of Digital Communication Scott Cushman, the average indebtedness of the class of 2014 for Union College students is $29,020 whereas Pacific Union College students graduated with an average of $45,390 indebtedness followed by Walla Walla University with $38,778. Andrews, La Sierra, and Southern Adventist Universities followed Walla Walla, topping off the list for highest average Adventist college indebtedness of 2014.

Taryn Rouse, director of financial aid and Student Financial Services are largely to thank for keeping Unionites’ pocketbooks a little more flexible than those of other Adventist colleges and universities.

“A big part of it, as my office,” shares Rouse, “is we absolutely try to work with families to make it possible for them to be here.”

Understanding that any educational pursuit requires sacrifices, Student Financial Services also works with students with late payments. Explains Rouse, “We try to help them from the start to the end, including the FAFSA, financial paperwork and plans, and helping through the entire process because it can be overwhelming. We want to be there for any questions that they have.”

The college’s financial standing also contributes to a student’s longevity. Students aren’t making up for outstanding debt—thanks in large part to generous donors. Furthermore, net tuition (tuition after scholarships and grants) is kept relatively low, explains Jeff Leeper, Vice President for Financial Administration.

Union students also help themselves in graduating with relatively low student debt. Leeper says, “There’s not a lot of outstanding debt for the school,” comments Leeper. “This means student don’t have to make up for it [through heavy tuition].”

Although there are rare instances when it doesn’t work out for students, there are also those miraculous times when God opens doors and makes money appear. And for those who can’t afford staying at Union, there may be a different opportunity, a different calling awaiting them elsewhere.

For those who are struggling, Rouse’s door is always open. Often she hears of students who believe they have to leave and they didn’t realize that Student Financial Services is more than willing to help them make it work. An empathetic crier, she will share in student joys and turmoil. “I have Kleenex in my office just for that reason,” she shares with a smile.

Seeing somebody who has financially struggled their entire college career finally realize their dreams and graduate is one of the most satisfying parts of her job. “Just getting to know them–it’s such a personal bond. We form awesome friendships and I just feel blessed by that. In a larger setting, we may not have this opportunity.”

“I love the people I work with and everyone at this college who is so supportive of these students. We have incredible people here in every aspect and I love my team.”

Whenever the pocketbook is feeling a little tight, a prayer and a quick call to Student Financial Services might be all one needs to breathe a sigh of relief.

Student Financial Services is located on the sixth floor of the Everett Dick Administration Building, and can be reached at 1402.486.2505.

Stefani is a junior studying communication.