A few years ago I was talking to a priest and told him that I was very concerned about my childrens’ college tuition. I had four young children at the time, knew that I might have more in the future, and I saw no way to be able to pay for their college education, as my parents did for me. He quickly told me that I had to get over the idea that I could pay for their tuition – “that just isn’t possible anymore”. I should just try to do my best to help them as much as I could.
I took his advice to heart but I still worry. I have met too many people who have crushing college debt, which can have life-changing implications. If you graduate from college with a Theology degree and $50,000 in debt, are you really going to be able to consider the religious life or the priesthood? If you get a medical degree with $150,000 debt, is it really possible for you to consider using your newly acquired skills as a medical missionary? The impact does not even have to be that explicit: a newly married couple with combined $100,000 student loans has introduced a stress in their marriage that will impact all aspects of their life, including their decisions regarding the use of contraception in their marriage.
The Catholic News Agency just published an article about the impact of student loans on the lives of young people. Some excerpts:
The “crushing burden” of student loans delays marriage and childbirth and encourages cohabitation, family policy expert Allan Carlson said in a lecture on Friday. He urged a pro-family debt relief program to help alleviate the financial stresses student loans can cause…
[T]he recent practice of burdening young adults with substantial educational debt appears to significantly discourage marriage and childbirth.
At the FRC on Friday, Carlson cited a 2002 survey indicating that 14 percent of indebted students delayed marriage because of their loans, while 21 percent delayed having children. In 1988 these numbers were nine and 12 percent, respectively.
This debt can also cause problems in marriages. One survey which examined 41 marital problems and found that “debt brought into marriage” was the third most problematic issue facing newlyweds. Among respondents who had no children, debt was the second most problematic problem. Among respondents ages 29 and below, debt was named the most problematic issue.
Carlson suggested student loan debt has encouraged a “retreat” from marriage.
The marriage rate for women aged 20-24 declined 41.4 percent between 1984 and 2004. The rate for women aged 25-29 declined 19.4 percent. For men, the marriage rate in those cohorts declined 45.5 percent and 29.6 percent, respectively.
Read the whole article here.
I don’t really have a solution, but I know that in my own situation, expensive trips to Disneyworld and costly toys at Christmas are replaced with more money in the kids’ college fund. Hopefully it will be the best present I can give them.