Over the past seven years, I have met with countless college students, young adults and young couples who are drowning in debt and struggling financially due to student loans. So when I completed my master’s degree I decided to focused my capstone project on this topic… and graduated debt-free. Our team surveyed 850 current college students from over 200 different colleges & universities in over 40 states. Scholastic debt is a huge problem. We compiled these findings into the book Debtless now available on Amazon.
We found that over 39% of current college students have no idea how much they have taken out in student loans. Based on our research, current students have taken on an average of $26,659 and haven’t graduated yet! The range of responses was anywhere from $0 to as much as $280,000 for an individual. Nearly 40% of students surveyed said that they were not informed about any alternatives to student loans.
This generation of students really needs some financial wisdom and encouragement. The goal isn’t only about money and simply becoming wealthy, the goal is that young people would capture God’s heart and know His voice. We don’t want debt to hold students back from following God’s direction for their life!
Here are 3 keys that can help minimize student loans and they can help you personally as a college ministry leader or young adult pastor in addition to the students you pastor and lead:
1. Talk about money.
The bible talks a lot about money and clearly, consistently communicates that less debt is better than more debt. We should, too! In our sermons, in our small groups and in one-on-ones; not just about tithing- but also all about biblical financial stewardship!
Scripture is our guide in this. Jesus talked more about money than any other singular topic and He often said: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Talking about money is more than talking about finances; it’s talking about our hearts, our dreams, our passions and our desires. Debt is a killer of those dreams- and we know our young people love to dream big. Let’s help equip young people towards success through teaching about financial freedom.
One of the powerful principles in the book of Proverbs is: “The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender.” (22:7). That’s the whole idea of debtless. The less debt you have, the better. Can you imagine what you could do without debt holding you back?
2. Encourage work.
No false advertisements here! There are ten tips to help students minimize debt in our book, Debtless. The one that made the biggest difference in my life was working part-time while I was in college. This afforded me the money to pay my tuition.
I’ve heard it said like this: The dream is free. The hustle is sold separately. In order to reach your dreams – financial, spiritual or ministry-related – you have to work hard!
It’s in your best interest not to pay interest. You will either pay less now or more later. This requires discipline, intentionality and sacrifice. It’s unpopular. Dave Ramsey, who is a personal financial expert says: “Live like no one else now so later you can live and give like no one else.”
3. Model Budgeting
One layer deeper than just working a job and earning money is budgeting that income and living on less than you are making.
Plan to Give Some Money Away. Am I talking about giving? Yes! Generously? Absolutely! I know that the last thing you’d expect to hear me say as a person who’s writing about taking on less debt in college is to give some money away! I would rather see you give away money you do have than spend money you don’t have.
Habits start today. You need to form, develop and train your giving muscles while you are young. The more you practice generosity; the more it becomes a habit. We are living in a world today where our generation is the most moved by social justice and humanitarian causes, but so many people have created a situation where they can’t give because of debt.
Can you imagine the type of difference a generation of people financially free can make in this world?!
When debt isn’t holding you back, you can give, support ministries and missionaries on a monthly basis and so much more!
· Save For The Future
Equally important to giving and generosity is saving for the future. One way I like to look at saving is it is giving towards your own personal future. Some of the financial advisors and wealth managers I have spoken with recommend for individuals to save anywhere from 10-20% of their income for short or long term goals.
· Live On The Rest
When it comes to budgeting, you know better than anyone what your own monthly expenses are such as housing, tuition, groceries, transportation, and travel. A big part of financial stewardship is recognizing that God provides for our every need. One of our responsibilities in return is living within our means. There are so many tools such as budgeting forms, apps and even notebooks and journals that can help guide you and your students along the journey towards being Debtless.
Our role as college and young adult ministry leaders is that we have a unique opportunity to help students make wise and God honoring financial decisions while they are in college. They have such an advantage, in that they are young. Youth has resilience. Young people don’t have to wait until they are old like Scrooge was. They don’t have to wait to have their life flash before their eyes and with the pain and sting of regret in order to make some adjustments. Our role is that we can coach them towards financial health and stability for a lifetime of following Jesus as faithful stewards!