College Debt and How to Stay Far, Far Away From It

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How can you avoid college debt? What does the Bible say about debt?

During summer break, college—and college debt—are probably the last things on your minds. But I think it's that important that you start to think about it now. That's why I asked Wilson Green the following questions. Before you read his interview, I should introduce him. 

I have the privilege of living with Wilson and his wife, Laura—while they're home, that is. Most of the year, they're traveling around the country teaching about marriage and family principles with Life Action Ministries. Enough introducing, though. Read on for some important thoughts about how to avoid college debt. 

Do you know how much college debt most students graduate with these days? 

I have read statistics from a lot of sources, but most of them say the average college debt is at least $25,000. When you combine that figure with the fact that many college students have $5,000–$7,000 in credit card debt, one can see the financial picture for most college students is not pretty.

You're quite passionate about college students graduating debt-free. Why is that?  

Some of the costly expenses of life happen in early adulthood: marriage, having and raising children, and the purchase of a house and car. Saddling a person with tens of thousands of dollars of college debt will bring disillusionment, despair, and the temptation toward further financial irresponsibility. When a Christian student is disobedient to God's principles in finance, it opens up many other areas for the enemy's attack. Obedience brings blessings; disobedience brings conflict.

Does God have anything to say about college debt? If so, what? 

There is nothing said specifically about college debt, but there is much said about money and debt in general. The commands from God's Word are clear. We earn money by working hard at a job, we do not spend more than we have, we do not presume upon the future with our purchases, we are to give happily and generously and recognize that any resources we have are God's. He is the Owner; we are just the manager. 

I've heard you say that college debt is the destruction of the family before it even begins. Can you explain what you mean? 

When a man and woman marry and both have a lot of college debt, the seeds of destruction of the marriage are already in place. One of the top points of conflict in a marriage is money, and that is when both start the marriage debt-free. Add to that the increased burden of lots of college debt and the problems of an already sensitive area are exacerbated. 

We were with a youth pastor and his wife in the South. They had recently graduated from a Christian college and were over $80,000 in debt. After they heard my counsel concerning college debt, they immediately began changing the way they lived. They returned furniture they had bought on credit. They began using cloth diapers for their baby instead of buying more expensive disposables. She began using coupons to buy groceries. In fact, this young lady began a blog just to share all the ways that the Lord had led them to get out of debt. When we begin to obey the Lord with our money, it is amazing how He blesses.

You have three adult children. Did they graduate college debt-free? If so, how? 

My oldest son is the only one who has finished, but he only owes a little money to us (his parents), which I lent to him interest-free. Many ask how that can be done. In today's economy and exorbitant college costs, a multiple pronged approach is necessary: 

  • Of course, it helps to begin to save early.
  • A family should investigate all possible grants and scholarships that may be available.
  • If parents are able, they may give or lend interest-free money to the student.
  • Many students work during their studies, which helps pay for all the costs incurred.
  • I also advise beginning one's education at a much cheaper community college.The student can always transfer those credits to the college of their choice later.
  • And finally don't succumb to "college choice pride." A student may be accepted to a more "prestigious" college or university, but that college is much more expensive.Better to attend the lesser expensive school and begin early adulthood and/or marriage debt-free.

What was your personal experience with college debt? 

I went to college and grad school in the '70s, so education was much less expensive. But the principles are the same. With the Lord's grace and provision, I was able to finish debt free.
 
Anything else you'd like to add? 

College debt just recently surpassed credit card debt. Former and present college students owe over one trillion dollars in unpaid college loans. Many economists say this may be the next "bubble" that may burst in the American economy much as the housing market did in 2008. Like much that is going on in America, this ballooning college debt can't continue. I implore all present and future college students to proceed carefully and biblically as they further their education.

So how about it? What can you do right now to begin to prepare for (or rather against!) college debt?

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