As a youth pastor I have many kids walk into my office and tell me stories that would break your heart. Tears flowing, questions being asked; begging for the pain to stop.
As a college pastor I have many students who walk into my office (or the local coffee shop we are meeting at) and tell me a story that would break your heart. Tears flowing, questions being asked; begging for the pain to stop.
Most of the pain for the teenagers is familial, emotional, spiritual with a healthy dose of high school dramatics thrown in. For the college students, at least the older ones it is about one thing: There are no jobs in sight after graduation and the massive amount of school debt they owe.
I sat with a recent graduate, tears welling up in his eyes as he told me a story that shook me to my core. He owes $80,000 in student loans and the best job he can find that is remotely related to his field is $9 an hour, 30 hours a week and no benefits. He is married and has to pay rent. His car continually breaks down. He has to pay for Obamacare for his wife and himself. They did the math, there simply isn’t enough money to go around.
I am seeing a growing trend among college graduates, of horrific fear and uncertainty. It is a rarity that I find them landing jobs in their field that pay anything close to a fair wage. Often times they had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they were freshmen. I have heard lines from the mouths of new recruits like “I’ll only be in debt $60,000, that’s not that bad” or “Everybody’s in debt, no biggie” yet four years later as they realize what things cost outside the bubble of college they lament their frivolity.
Is this injustice? Has it become unbiblical and cruel? At what point in time does all of this becoming laughingly absurd. The Presidents, professors, coaches and cooks all want us to believe that we can’t succeed without college, that we need it to be a functioning member of society. But has the cost (which has risen exponentially since they earned that degree) is staggering. I am watching so many who have skipped school altogether go into the workforce, make good money and live well adjusted lives.
I have an old High School friend who went to art school because he was told “to become a graphic artist, you must go to school.” The institute charged an outrageous price, cost him 3 years of earning potential and spit him out with $48,000 worth of debt into a job market where an entry level job pays $8.50 an hour, part time, no benefits. He was never able to leave the job he worked through college at the local Mall because he couldn’t manage the pay cut to break into his field due to the massive loan payments that strangled him. In this case he would have been much better never having gone to school.
Should 18 year olds be allowed to make this potentially damaging decision about their financial future? It seems that our government seeks to regulate so much of our lives; but the gross accrual of suffocating debt doesn’t appear to be on their radar (or at least they are at peace with it).
I don’t have all the answers, and I may be the “chief of sinners” having graduated Summa Cum Laude from a private school, found a good job in my field, paid off my loans all the while serving as college pastor in a college town at a church that ministers to college students. A majority of the volunteers for my youth ministry are college students who sacrificially, enthusiastically pour the love of Jesus into the lives of my students. Without them my ministry would look very differently.
I looked across the table at the disillusioned graduate sitting before me and quietly stated, “I’m going to tell you something that the college will never tell you, though they should. I am sorry for what they have done to you. I am sorry that college ruined your life. Let’s look into you and your wife getting second jobs…….”
I don’t have much more that I can say.