Some Thoughts on College Debt: The Next Economic Crisis

My wife and I were fortunate enough to go to college in a time when it was still affordable. Thanks in large part to our parents, a number of scholarships, and some low-paying jobs, we were both able to complete our undergraduate studies debt-free. Also, before turning the tassel on my seminary education, I was able to pay every bill in full. Even so, as a young couple, we struggled to make ends meet.

Today’s college graduates, in many cases, have it much worse. Total student debt has tripled in this country the past ten years to an estimated $1.2 billion. An average millennial (ages 18-35) has over $41,000 in college debt or the equivalent of 18% of their average starting salary in loan repayment! Millennials with that amount of debt often times can’t buy a house or a new car and struggle to tithe to their local church,.

Some economists predict that student loan default will lead to the next great recession. We all remember the “housing bubble" of 2008. Economists are calling this phenomenon the “education bubble.” 

Not every graduating high school student should go to college. In particular, they should not go if their career choice doesn’t require it. That being said, some students will need to go to college and should they decide to attend a traditional four-year undergraduate school, if things don’t change, they will more than likely graduate with a debt payoff plan bigger than my first mortgage payment.

"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender's slave." Proverbs 22:7

That’s where The Virtues Campus comes in. The Virtues Campus brings together the flexibility of online classes through Waldorf University in Iowa with a local on-campus community here in Coon Rapids and other locations. The first of its kind, The Virtues Campus offers students an affordable, accredited, biblically integrated liberal arts education for less than $10,000 a year.

Upon receiving an associate degree, students who attend The Virtues Campus will be awarded a $25,000 scholarship from Waldorf which will go a long way in paying for a debit-free bachelor degree.

According to The Virtues Campus website, students meet three days a week with a trained, academic pastor (my good friend, Dr. Dave Glesne), and enrollment for each campus is capped at 25 students. “This unique style of learning gives students the freedom of a flexible study schedule, while allowing them to enjoy a campus experience where they collaborate on academic projects with their peers, participate in career-readiness activities, and study how God's Word is applied to learning and living.”

The early church in America birthed many great universities that trained future leaders, grounded in God’s Word. Regrettably, many of those same universities are no longer sound in their teaching and are strapping this next generations of students with unmanageable, lifelong debt.

Parents and students: Check out your options. Research. Do your homework. Project that future salary based on a major or degree and decide if a four-year traditional degree is worth the cost. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. That's between you and God.

If you want an alternative, I encourage you to check out The Virtues Campus in Coon Rapids and see it its right for you.

Northgate Church is passionate about helping people become who God purposed them to be—debt free.