by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Douglas Oliver asks in a Martin Center column whether Christian colleges are worth the debt burden. (The Martin Center plans to publish a rebuttal column in the near future.)
I am counseling a young married couple experiencing serious financial hardship. Their financial problems revolve around $30,000 in student loans with a 13 percent interest rate. The debt was incurred after the wife attended a Christian college whose financial aid relied on student debt.
Coming from a troubled family and just out of high school, she was neither well-versed in personal finance nor well-suited to pursue a four-year degree. She dropped out after a few semesters. Now, she has a heavy debt load and struggles to pay the interest—let alone the principal. That debt burden has negatively affected her self-perception and her marriage.
Unfortunately, her situation is not unique. Many students who attend Christian colleges leave with too much debt that they struggle to repay, even though the Bible (in Romans 13:8 and Proverbs 22:7) strongly warns Christians against taking on large debts without being able to pay them off quickly.
Given those Biblical warnings and their mission, Christian colleges have a responsibility to keep student debts low. Yet, the business model for most Christian colleges is based on high levels of student debt. The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) states that one of the missions of Christian colleges is “Christ-centered and rooted in the historic Christian faith.” If those colleges want their students to live a Christian life and consider lower-paying careers to serve Christ, they need to “walk the walk” by discouraging their students from taking on life-altering levels of debt.