So, as some readers may know I became the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia’s poster boy for student debt. The seminary sent out a letter to all alumni (including me) asking for money, because there are people like Chris, a recent graduate who is 80,000 dollars in the hole, who has been called to a church in New Jersey. They go on to point out that saddling seminarians like Chris with that much debt isn’t a faithful way to run the church. So send money to LTSP.
I thought it might be helpful for folk to see what 80 grand of debt does to a person’s spending habits. Therefore take a look at two charts that hopefully will graphically illustrate this. The first is the top five things I spent money on from October 15th to November 15th (Chart A). The second is a chart showing where all my pay from November 15th to December 15th went (Chart B).
The big thing to notice is that, of the top five things I spent money on in A, my debt was not only the biggest, but made up 50% of the money I spent in that chart. Of the top 5 things I spent money on student debt made up 50%. That’s a lot!
Still, chart A is a little wobbly, because it only shows the top 5 things I spent money on in that time period. Lets go to chart B.
38% of my pay went to paying off student debt. I put as much money toward my debt as I did toward food, savings, tithes, keeping my car going, and charitable donations combined!
Now, I have to admit I am intent upon paying off my student loans in 10 years or less, which is ambitious, but frankly I don’t want to be in debt forever. Yet, imagine if I had kids to feed, I would have to extend my loan… or marry a baroness… seriously if there are any baronesses out there looking for an indebted Lutheran pastor I’m so available.
Anyway… as it is, if I pay off my loan in 10 years I will be paying $30,000 of interest. If, however, I did have to extend my loan I could pay up to $86,000 worth of interest. Think about that, I could pay more than double the money I was initially loaned!
There you have it, graphic representation of what happens to Pastors when their church body insists upon extensive professional theological education, but does not financially back that requirement.