Friday, December 23, 2011

Follow up to "Charts by LTSP’s poster boy for student debt"

I just received a very important follow-up question about my seminary debt.
The question was: “How much of that debt was incurred because of seminary? How much from college? And how much from other graduate courses of study?”
While I have 80,000 dollars worth of student debt only 66,125 was incurred by my time at LTSP earning a Master of Divinity. The remaining 13,875 was incurred at the University of Cambridge while earning a Master of Philosophy in Divinity.
My degree at the foremost English speaking university in the world (take that Oxford) cost me 13,875 dollars a year. This is all inclusive, food, lodging, etc.
In contrast, LTSP cost 22,041 all inclusively (not counting an extra 6,000 dollar non-governmental loan that got me through the last semester which I did not included in any of my calculations because I am currently not in the process of paying it back).
Note well, at Cambridge I was an out of country student, paying in dollars at a time when our currency was worth very little against the pound, and it still cost over 8,000 dollars less a year than did my seminary education.
But back to addressing the question/statement about my previous post. “How much of that debt was incurred because of seminary?" After all as the reader who asked this question pointed out, “If we're going to take a good hard look at what the church asks of us and expects of us in terms of our education, it's helpful to know how much debt comes from each part of the picture.”
So, to answer the question, what percentage of my pie chart A is from seminary debt? 41%. Likewise, in pie chart B 31.5% of what I earned this last pay period went to paying off my seminary debt.
It is worth pointing out Seminary generally doesn’t let people in without a Bachelor’s degree, so undergraduate debt could be included in the educational costs of becoming an ELCA pastor.

Debt after seminary: Charts by LTSP’s poster boy for student debt

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.