In-"debt"-ed to education

We’re paying to study, but does it have to hurt us for decades after our diploma? | PC: Kimberly Ortiz

We’re paying to study, but does it have to hurt us for decades after our diploma? | PC: Kimberly Ortiz

Following the call

You’ve made it! Graduation is just around the corner. All those four-plus years have been worth it. Your dream job is almost within reach, and nothing stands in the way between you and the life you’ve dreamed of.

Except for your student loans—that five-figure amount tacked to your name for the next ten to fifteen years.

Adventist schools. We come for quality education in a spiritual environment, and then leave up to our ears in debt. Classes provide career training. Chapel, Bible classes and Christian professors challenge and grow our faith.

But one of the most important keys to life—financial sense—seems left by the wayside.

72 percent of Union College students receive loans to help pay for school. It’s easy: just scribble your name on a page, complete a short online course and you’re good to go. Your student card purchases everything you need or want, and by the time you leave you’re an expert at living on credit.

It’s not something to be proud of.

Money is one of the “talents” God gives us, and in order to glorify Him, we need to manage it well. I believe it dishonors Him to have His children owing their lives to banks and the government.

Debt focuses us on money and our job. It takes time and attention away from the Lord’s work. It limits where we can go and what we can do. It especially gets in the way of mission work: how can you volunteer overseas when you owe the bank $30,000?

If we as a church want to be a “peculiar people,” set aside as an example to the world, we need to learn to be lords over our money and not servants to it.

What can be done about this in our Adventist schools? I have three recommendations.

First, make our colleges more self-supporting. When the Adventist education movement began, Ellen White recommended that schools own farms and/or businesses. Crops were used in the cafeteria or sold for profit. Factories produced goods to sell. Tuition was lower without sending students into debt or asking alumni for money all the time.

Putting this advice into practice today could have the same effect—lower tuition, higher student earnings, and a cushion for helping the schools balance their budgets. We need to bring this model back.

Second, increase on-campus wages. Minimum wage doesn’t provide enough to live on. How can we expect students to avoid, or even diminish, loans with it? We’re training our students to work minimum-wage jobs and live on plastic to make up for the rest.

Even a $0.25 or $0.50 per hour raise could make a difference. If not possible across the board, it could at least apply to the jobs where students actually have to work (rather than get paid to sit at a desk and study).

Third, which is the most plausible, modify the school curriculum to include a class on finance. How about turning “Personal Finance” into a general education requirement? How about contacting Dave Ramsey and seeking permission to conduct a Financial Peace University class for seniors?

The knowledge from these learning opportunities would be exceedingly useful after graduation. I know; I’ve been there.

Debt-free Adventist education. Debt-free Adventists. Now THAT would be a powerful testimony.

Ginger Hany is a senior studying biomedical science