Art Rainer posted an article on student loan debt. It’s a good article. If you are considering college, or advise someone considering college (parents, youth ministers, guidance counselors, etc.) I recommend giving it a read. While I won’t rehash all his points (read the article) I would like to address a couple of them.
Keep your options open
Taking the last one first, Rainer addresses the notion “There is no other option”. He encourages people to realize there are options and to explore them before taking out a loan. I believe Mr. Rainer is speaking merely in terms of financial aid. I would like to broaden the conversation even further.
There are options other than college. Not every person needs to have a college education. If everyone went to college and earned a bachelor’s degree in the hopes of landing a “white collar job” where would we get our welders, plumbers, electricians, truck drivers, etc. Choosing not to attend college does not mean you are consigning your life to flipping burgers (though I know several fast food franchise owners who got their start exactly that way). What has God created you to do? What do you love? Accept the fact that a college degree is not going to guarantee you a job (and that money isn’t going to buy you happiness in any case) and pursue a passion.
Many careers still require some form of education, but trade schools are often much less expensive than colleges and you’ll have the training you need much quicker than four (or more) years. A quick Google search will produce more trade schools than you can shake a stick at.
What’s the rush?
In his article Rainer advises students to finish college as quickly as possible to pay as little as possible. That’s sound advice if you’re a full time student and/or taking out loans. I would counter Mr. Rainer, however, by advocating that going to school part time and taking longer to complete one’s degree is preferable to taking out loans. Rainer cites a concern that students who take longer to complete their degrees are less likely to actually complete it. That certainly is a danger. It’s not for nothing that Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” But we’re already talking about changing how we conceptualize paying for college.
If remaining debt free that we may be “conduits through which God’s generosity flows” (as Rainer advocates and I heartily agree) then let’s change how we conceptualize the amount of time it should take and encourage each other to be disciplined, to press on toward this particular prize set before us and finish this particular race well. In my graduating class were more than one student who had worked their way through college and had taken longer than the standard four years. Their graduation was much more sweet to them than to myself or any of the other students who had been able to coast through on someone else’s dime.
This isn’t merely an academic exercise for me. I have a large family. My oldest is fast approaching college age. I cannot afford to pay for her to attend even the cheapest state university. We’re going to have to think differently about life after high school. I still think Rainer’s article is a great one, well worth the read. I also think, however, that we need to think further outside the box than he proposes.