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The “Domino Effect” of Student Debt

In an earlier generation, it would seem that the formula for responsible financial decision making was simple:

                                      An organization provides honest information

                         +     __An individual makes responsible decisions__

                                     Financial health and well-being

It would seem this formula is no longer accurate. Even responsible individuals who make sound decisions with their finances are struggling under the weight of student debt. By the time students enter Winebrenner Theological Seminary, the mere fact that they are carrying student debt from their undergraduate education is a reason for concern.

Through the generosity of the Lilly Foundation and the Association for Theological Schools (ATS), Winebrenner Theological Seminary has been a recipient of a grant addressing the Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers (ECFFM). As a concluding event for this phase of the larger project, ATS hosted an event in Pittsburgh attended by several of us from Winebrenner. As part of one of the sessions, Amy Kardash, President of In Trust shared details from a report “Buried in Debt” about the domino effect of student debt including postponing marriage, holding off on children and not buying a home.

It would seem that not only does “debt begets debt,” but debt also profoundly affects the progression of major milestones in life.

I benefited greatly from the support from my local denominational region and graduated with my Master of Divinity degree without accumulating additional debt for that degree. I did not realize how privileged I was at that time.

What does this mean for Winebrenner Theological Seminary in 2020 and beyond? For one, continue to wrestle with the changing dynamics of the cost of education, and in our struggle, we remain committed to an education that is affordable.

One way we demonstrate this commitment is by opening alternative pathways toward graduate theological education. And in so doing, we aim to 1) simplify the enrollment process, 2) reduce the cost of education, and 3) eliminate barriers to graduating with a master’s degree.

We invite other institutes of higher education to collaborate with us, end the “domino effect” of student debt and open the way to higher education for greater numbers of the population.

– Dr. Brent Sleasman, President

– Image by Marco Lermer, accessed via Adobe Spark