In many financial education courses, there’s a focus on debt—the consequences of carrying it, paths to reducing it, and the huge advantage to avoiding it altogether. Invariably, the facilitator or coach will ask participants to identify “good debt” and “bad debt.” If you’ve been through such an exercise before, you know the “good debt” list is typically limited to mortgage debt (toward the prospect of eventual homeownership) and educational debt (toward the prospect of upward career and economic mobility).
It is possible, though, that sometimes good debt can become bad?
This is the question that has haunted me in my two years leading financial education and empowerment ministries at the American Baptist Home Mission Societies. Though seminary promises a rich learning experience and is still regarded by most as essential for the equipping of clergy, I have also seen the burdensome weight of student loans on clergy. Some have left the ministry for careers that will better enable them to pay off that debt. Others have confessed they doubt they will live to see the day they pay off their student loans. Many live with shame, unable or unwilling to share with their congregations the reality of the debt that they carry, for fear their ministerial call and competence will be questioned.
For those with federal student loans, there was a glimmer of hope in this narrative this summer. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, which had long exempted religious activities as eligible for certified employment in the non-profit sector, shifted course. Faith leadership was now to be considered, and on October 6th, the regulations loosened again with the announcement of a temporary period during which applicants can seek the inclusion of prior loan payments that hadn’t been counted toward the program’s requirements for a variety of reasons.
Confused? Hopeful, but cautiously so? Me too.
We decided it was time to bring an expert to the table. On Thursday, October 21st from 1-2:15pm ET/10-11:15am PT we’ll be hosting attorney and student loan expert Heather Jarvis in the Center for Continuous Learning. Join us to hear Heather dispel the myths, clear up the mysteries, and answer your questions live. Register today for this critical opportunity to see how you can turn this bad debt back to good.
Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash