When College Costs More than a House

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day. He knows a couple who is about to get married and who has a debt burden from college that exceeds $100,000 between the two of them.

That’s a bad place to start a marriage.

Are these Ivy League graduates or med school students? No. They’re graduating from Cedarville with degrees in education and English. To put it in perspective, my first home in Louisville cost my wife and I less than $100,000 and we mortgaged that amount for 30 years. Our monthly payment was around $850 per month. This makes perfect sense when you’re purchasing an asset that appreciates in value  over time, like a home. But that is a crazy amount to pay for degrees in education and English from a small Bible college.

With this kind of sticker price, is this worth it? Most people go to college because it’s what you do in order to secure a decent job and better lifestyle in the future. College is supposed to do two things. First, it is supposed to educate and train you to contribute to society in a particular field (prepare you for a vocation) and second to indirectly recommend you to potential employers by awarding you a degree.

If employment does not await the graduate with sufficient income to offset the debt burden, then the college education becomes an obscenely expensive venture that will not propel a person’s career.

The Bible says that “the rich rules over the poor and the borrower is servant to the lender” (Prov 22:7). College is supposed to lead to a good career. A good career is supposed to produce freedom and financial independence. This freedom can then, in turn, be used to serve God and the financial affluence given to advance Kingdom causes.

But when colleges are charging $100,000 for degrees that lead to careers that pay in the $30,000 price range, the student has enslaved himself to a life of financial slavery.

6 replies
  1. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    I agree for the most part except for the “life of financial slavery.” Maybe fifteen years of financial slavery, but after those fifteen years the earning potential of a college grad is probably going to be much more than that of a skilled but worker with no degree. A person who studies English can do many entry level non-skilled jobs, until he acquires the skills for his industry, but a metal worker is probably going to be working with metal unless he learns a new trade. Bottom line, college often better provides a framework from which a person can more easily change careers, whereas many non-degree jobs limit growth and are not cross-industrial.

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  2. Michael Clary
    Michael Clary says:

    The person who makes $30,000 a year will likely bring home about $2500 per month considering taxes. Maybe less than that. When you spend $700-800 per month on college loans, about 1/3 of your income is going to pay off debt.

    Education is an investment in the future, granted. But if that investment doesn’t have a specific future of employment tied to it, its a bad investment.

    Either way, the Bible is still true: the borrower is servant to the lender. Until the debt is paid, that person’s time is partially owned by the lender.

    Reply
  3. Danny McDonald
    Danny McDonald says:

    Hey Michael. Long time no talk. Like this post. I work in higher ed and see this (what you describe) quite often. Partly to blame are the students who have such a debt but no drive/forethough to plan for and pursue a career that will offset this debt (I am not alluding to your friends here). But, I also place the blame on higher education institutions for the rates they set; most times they blame inflation, state budget cuts, etc. for their rate hikes; yet, I believe some of the primary reasons for the high tuition rates are to fund more research, sports, bringing in nationally-known professors, etc. This, however, is a can of worms that can’t be opened in such a small amount of space.

    I miss you, brother.

    Reply
  4. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    So what’s the solution? What do you tell your friends, who possibly never wanted anything else in life than to be teachers in English? What is their alternative?

    Unfortunatly, the school systems aren’t really open to applicants with only Associates Degrees. Should they have worked all through school, doing school part-time, not getting out of college till they’re in their late twenty’s, putting off their income generating opportunity even longer?

    I just think your post rings slightly empty when you don’t also tackle the challenge of the walls that are put in place for certain vocational fields if you don’t get a college degree, even if those fields aren’t “well-paying” fields (i.e. teaching).

    Reply
  5. Michael Clary
    Michael Clary says:

    Andrew, the principle is simple: an exorbitantly expensive college education should lead to a well paying career. If a person wants to be an English teacher, that’s fine. It doesn’t have to cost that much for a high quality degree in English.

    My solution is this. Go to a state school that doesn’t cost that much money.

    Andrew, do you think it is a wise move for a person to spend $50-100,000 on an education that will pay them only $30,000 in one year?

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  6. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    State colleges are great. Let’s run with your theory, here. I live in Indiana. One of the best state school’s to go to for the cause of teaching is Ball St. University. Made a nice run on the football field this year, maybe you’ve heard of them.

    Anywho, the average cost to go to Ball St. for a year is $15,242. That comes out to a total cost of approx. $61,000 a year. Now maybe you get some schoalarships to help that out. Maybe you get $2000 a year in scholarships. Fantastic!

    You still owe $53,000 for four years.

    I guess what I’m getting at here, without belaboring the point, is that while the core of your topic is an understandable and well-founded point to bring up, you’re ignoring the harsh realities of today’s Higher Education climate. To chastise your friends (whether you say that’s what you were trying to do or not, that is how your post reads) for pursuing a higher education in a field that might not pay off the loan in two or three years is a little high handed.

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