About a year or two ago the college I attended was slammed for not being “cost-effective.”  A blogger asked that people negate this by posting “Worth it!” if they disagreed.  I was about to add my voice too when I stopped.   I tried again but I just couldn’t do it.

I had a great college experience, wonderful instructors, classmates who are doing great things and still loving their families.  In fact none of my immediate friends in college have ever been divorced.  I LOVED my college experience and it was the best thing I could’ve done at that point in my life.  And yet, I couldn’t say, “worth it” on that blog.

The reason those two words couldn’t come off my keyboard is more cultural than it is specific to the college I attended.  When I hear of a friend who is trying to serve the poor in the worst places of the world but has the albatross of $40k in student loans around his neck, I cringe.  When I hear of another friend who has trouble buying a house because their loan is $50k it bothers me.   I think about an older guy I know who is slammed with $90k in school loans but at least has a job now that can put a roof over his head, although he doesn’t make much money nor can he pay on his loans. 

What is it in our culture (and even church culture) that says we need to spend $60-100k to be validated? To be employable?  To be legit?  What is a system that requires us to be laden down with debt?  Yes, God can provide and he did for me.  But is there really such a thing as “good” “debt?”  It almost sounds oxymoronic when mirrored to the Scripture that to be a debtor is to be a slave.

I would like to challenge the format that says when we’re in college we need to take a lot of courses that are not specific to our area of interest so that we become “well-rounded.”  Does excessive debt make us well-rounded?

I would like to challenge a system especially in ministry that says that one must have a degree before they become a valid pastor or church worker.  Perhaps Paul’s credentials of being imprisoned, 40 lashes minus one, and persisting in hunger and cold and beatings for the sake of the gospel could also be credentials?

I would like to challenge a structure that says taking tests on a piece of paper determines if we’re qualified or not.  What about whether they can do the job?  What about those who can do the job but they can’t pass the written test?

I’m for training.  It’s what gets me excited.  It keeps me up at night.  And I still love a good college course.  But it’s when I see people I love struggling under the burden of debt for 20 or more years that I want to see a change.   When I see people graduate who have a lot of ideas, opinions and have passed the test but not the test of life that I wonder if there’s a different way.   I just wonder.  Perhaps a bit of me longs for more apprenticeship like structure.  More hands-on, smaller numbers with greater I Do/You Do mentorship.  Or even a hybrid form of classroom with greater emphasis on experience.  Less test-taking and more life-making.   Some are moving this way but still at greater and greater costs to the students.  I truly hope change is in the air in how we train people.  I think this generation is hungry for a different way and I would hate to see that hunger dulled.