BIOLA grad details how she graduated debt free

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Dick Dayton's picture

During my Bible College years (I came as a 26 year old with a new baby), The Lord provided factory work, 40-65 hours a week. Took extra time to finish school, but was debt free and able to start ministry in a smaller church, where they loved us and let me learn and grow.

we should be as diligent as possible to avoid the bonds of debt 

Dick Dayton

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Nothing earth-shaking there; just good, common sense advice. I appreciated that she was realistic too. If you can't quite graduate debt free, at least you can graduate with far less debt than the average. I crammed my BA into 7 1/2 years because I had to keep stopping to work, but I graduated debt free. Makes a huge difference on a young family, particularly if one or both of you want to engage in vocational ministry (as my wife and I did) or you want mom to be able to stay at home when the kids start coming along (as my wife and I did). 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Jim's picture

This is not the story I expected ... because:

  • It was in the Wall Street Journal
  • Biola grad 
  • Private school 
  • Young woman (not because she is a woman but because she is young. It's easier to have graduated debt free for those of us who are older (before the tuition bubble fueled by EZ student debt)

Altogether a good article with practical advice.

 

 

dgszweda's picture

I was able to do the same.  I worked two full time jobs during the summer and worked almost 40 hours a week during the school year on campus (even though I wasn't really suppose to).  My grades suffered, but at least I didn't have debt when I graduated.  One thing, that I learned at the end, which has carried me through life, was no matter how poor people appear to be, or how hard it is to get a job, you just need to be innovative and better than the other individual and you can be a recipient of that money.  It was only in my last two months at college where I took a problem - poor college students were working on Saturday morning off site for people and were getting up too early before the dining common would open.  I found out that Krispy Kreme would discount their donuts significantly the greater the quantity that you bought.  If I bought enough I could buy then $2.50 and sell them for $5.  I worked out a service where I would collect money from the students on Friday night, I would place an order with Krispy Kreme before light bell, drive my pickup truck to the loading dock on Saturday morning and load up and deliver a fresh dozen of hot donuts inside the door of every room that ordered and have them there before they woke up.  They got fresh donuts for $0.50 less than it would cost to pick them up themselves.  By my second month I was taking almost 100 orders a week and making almost $1,000 a month for a few hours worth of work.  If I had learned this before, I wouldn't have needed to take a full day of Saturday work while only making $40. 

Jim's picture

When my wife and I were in college - she (1969-73) ... me (1967-71) - there was no borrowing. So it was not possible to get into debt. If you didn't have enough $$, you would wait out a semester. 

There was very little credit available for young adults. I had a Gulf gas card with a $ 100 limit. 

Mark_Smith's picture

but follow all of the above advice if you couldn't care less about learning. Hey, if all you're looking for is a piece of paper with your name on it, go ahead.

 

I was a physics/mathematics double major. I took 15+ hours a semester with real course work assumed to be done. You know, real home work, like calculus, physics home work. I couldn't work more than about 10 hours a week at an on campus job. I also had about 15 hours a week of lab time...chemistry, physics, etc. 

 

I graduated with a BS with less than $6500 debt in 2001, and every dime of that debt was worth it when I got into a physics graduate school that assumed I actually learned something in undergrad and didn't work 40+ hours, do little of the work, and graduate with a 2.01 GPA.

 

My favorite advice of the column above was to RAISE CATTLE!!!!!!!!!  Also, become a wedding photographer...Hey, I thought I was going to college to learn a new skill. I guess not.

Perhaps some of this advice works for a Bible degree, I don't know, but to get a degree in Math and Physics took REAL EFFORT AND FOCUS ON THE SUBJECT I WAS LEARNING IN SCHOOL.

josh p's picture

In my opinion these types of conversations are pretty tough to have because everyone is at a different level. I have a friend who is a bi-vocational pastor that works full time in his secular job and is taking one or two classes a semester in a PHD program. He has five children and is still an excellent father. I however could never do that. I am starting full time school this semester while also working full time and I have only two children. That will llikely be the absolute limit of what I can handle. The point is that some people can easily graduate without debt but for others it is a struggle. For someone pursuing the ministry like myself it seems prudent to graduate debt free but for someone who is going to go right in to a high paying job a little debt might not be too terrible. 

Mark_Smith's picture

that for every 3 hours of in-class time each week, you are supposed to do 6 hours of work to study for that class? So a 3 credit hour class is supposed to account for 9 hours each week. At that rate a 15 hour schedule is 45 hours per week...yes, that makes it a full-time job.

 

All too often "students", especially the general education students (not the science majors since I am a science professor), now-a-days take 15 hours of classes, work 40 hours, are married with kids, and then complain to me (I am a professor at a secular college) that my class it too hard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They want to show up, do little to no work, and get credit for it...Ain't happening in this professor's class.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

that for every 3 hours of in-class time each week, you are supposed to do 6 hours of work to study for that class? So a 3 credit hour class is supposed to account for 9 hours each week. At that rate a 15 hour schedule is 45 hours per week...yes, that makes it a full-time job.

 

All too often "students", especially the general education students (not the science majors since I am a science professor), now-a-days take 15 hours of classes, work 40 hours, are married with kids, and then complain to me (I am a professor at a secular college) that my class it too hard!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! They want to show up, do little to no work, and get credit for it...Ain't happening in this professor's class.

Mark,

This comes across as more than a little condescending. First of all, you make it sound like science majors are the only ones really working in school. Second, everyone functions at a different level. What takes you three hours to accomplish might only take me an hour, or vice versa. Third, I am in education as well and have never seen the 1-2 ratio of class to out of class time you mandate. I agree that many students approach classes with an entitlement mentality. However, that does not equate to no one being able to accomplish rigorous classwork while working a substantial job. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

josh p wrote:

In my opinion these types of conversations are pretty tough to have because everyone is at a different level. I have a friend who is a bi-vocational pastor that works full time in his secular job and is taking one or two classes a semester in a PHD program. He has five children and is still an excellent father. I however could never do that. I am starting full time school this semester while also working full time and I have only two children. That will llikely be the absolute limit of what I can handle. The point is that some people can easily graduate without debt but for others it is a struggle. For someone pursuing the ministry like myself it seems prudent to graduate debt free but for someone who is going to go right in to a high paying job a little debt might not be too terrible. 

Josh,

There are no employment certainties. How many graduates in the last five years expected to go right into a high paying job but couldn't find work because of the state of the economy? Biblically, the best pattern is to do everything reasonably within our power to avoid debt as much as possible. The borrower is still servant of the lender (Proverbs 22:7). That doesn't make debt innately sinful, though I think many believers will have to give an account for unwise and unnecessary debt someday when they stand before the Lord. In some cases, I don't think it is possible to graduate from college completely debt free without stretching school out over 40 years. On the other hand, I don't know many college students who couldn't get by more cheaply or afford to stretch school out a couple of years in order to reduce or eliminate debt. There is no universal law that says we must finish our BA in 4 years, or else we have somehow failed. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Mark_Smith's picture

I can't speak for Christian schools, never attended one and know little about them. If you dig at almost any university's website, you will find something that defines what a Credit Hour is. In that document it will say that for each 1 hour of class time, 2 hours of outside time is expected.

 

Of course, if you can do the work in 30 minutes so be it...

 

My point is that too many students, from 5 years experience teaching general education science classes at the university level (that is 5 years AFTER earning a PhD and not counting teaching time in grad school), think school is a joke. All they want is a piece of paper and a job afterwards. They care little about learning. This attitude permeates the average modern "student".

 

To any one who says I graduated from college debt free by working 40+ hours a week, I ask, "what did you learn?"

James K's picture

Jim wrote:

When my wife and I were in college - she (1969-73) ... me (1967-71) - there was no borrowing. So it was not possible to get into debt. If you didn't have enough $$, you would wait out a semester. 

There was very little credit available for young adults. I had a Gulf gas card with a $ 100 limit. 

Yeah but Jim, wasn't $100 worth of gas back then about a year's worth?

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Mark wrote: To any one who says I graduated from college debt free by working 40+ hours a week, I ask, "what did you learn?"

I graduated from college debt free after working 50 hours a week - and taking 20+ credits semester for the first two years until I ran out of money - and maintaining better than a 3.5 gpa (not as good as my graduate work, but I wasn't as serious about life then). Of course, I stretched my BA into 7 1/2 years and only needed about 4-5 hours of sleep a night back then. However, I learned a lot carrying a double major in Bible and secondary education. 

 

Two observations. First, just to reiterate, the point you are trying to make does not require such big blanket statements. Second, having attended both Christian and secular schools, I think you might find the students at a Christian college more serious about what they are doing. That's not to say that they are perfect, or that the entitlement problem you are highlighting doesn't still come up, because it does. (I had an undergrad classmate who took 12 hours a semester and worked 15 hours a week because parents were footing the bill but always complained about the weight of her load in life). I'm just saying that you frequently find students at Christian college/university on a "mission" and determined to find a way to make it happen. I have known many of these types of students over the years who sacrificed to accomplish the goals they had set - and those goals included far more than getting a piece of paper.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Mark_Smith's picture

You worked 50 hours a week AND took 20+ hours of classes? AND kept a 3.5 gpa doing it?

 

Did you walk up hill both ways in the snow with the wind blowing 60 mph as well?

Mark_Smith's picture

You should be glad you didn't enroll in my class...no way you'd have made it.

 

I guess what I'm thinking about your case is that if college was so easy that you could accomplish it with so little effort at actually learning, then it was something you could teach yourself and you didn't need school. All you wanted was a sheet of paper so you could go get a job...

Mark_Smith's picture

because I would listen to the Christian radio station and the big money guy at the time was  Larry Burkett. He would pound the pulpit every day that borrowing money was a sin, especially for college. He would say you could work 40 hours, take 20 hours, and graduate in 3 years and be done. Sure, if you have a simple major. But if your desire was to really learn the material and go to graduate school in that field, you simply couldn't.

Take for example the "go to community college" route. Now, in California community colleges are pretty good, but where I am at and where I am from CC's are glorified high schools. You take Calculus, or Chemistry, or Physics (the science major classes, not the gen ed classes) at a local CC and you might get an A, but you only covered 1/2 the material of the equivalent University class. It will kill your career before you start. You are expected to go through the gauntlet and learn the material the hard way. There is simply no other way to do it. Plus, you earn an A in the Calculus I,II, III and IV. Then you get the Electromagnetism I and you learn that the Calculus you learned was child's play, and you have to teach yourself the real deal to survive...no one is going to do it for you. Its even worse when you get to Grad School.

Across from my office there is the undergrad Biology student lounge. Probably a dozen Biology majors "live" there during the school year, doing little else but studying and eating... 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:
You worked 50 hours a week AND took 20+ hours of classes? AND kept a 3.5 gpa doing it?

 

Did you walk up hill both ways in the snow with the wind blowing 60 mph as well?

 

Mark_Smith wrote:
You should be glad you didn't enroll in my class...no way you'd have made it.

 

I guess what I'm thinking about your case is that if college was so easy that you could accomplish it with so little effort at actually learning, then it was something you could teach yourself and you didn't need school. All you wanted was a sheet of paper so you could go get a job...

Now, Mark, there you go again making blanket statements. You don't know anything about me or my situation, but you don't even stop with ignorant, uninformed statements about my deeds. You somehow feel qualified to diagnose my motives as well. I am trying to keep this light and conversational, but you are making that very difficult with personal attacks, wild guesses and ignorant assumptions. Can't you acknowledge that despite your vast 5 years of teaching experience at a secular college, there might be some students out there of a kind you have not encountered? Especially since you already acknowledge you have no personal knowledge of Christian colleges? 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Mark_Smith's picture

want me to admit that you had a great academic career at a Christian college, maxing out your learning, taking 7+ courses each semester, plus working 50+ hours, plus attending church I assume, during your brilliant undergraduate years? All for the glory of not taking on any debt?

 

You sir, are a true genius. I give you credit.

 

For the record, I NEVER attacked you.

Mark_Smith's picture

but I am more interested in my students LEARNING something, than graduating with no debt.

josh p's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

josh p wrote:

In my opinion these types of conversations are pretty tough to have because everyone is at a different level. I have a friend who is a bi-vocational pastor that works full time in his secular job and is taking one or two classes a semester in a PHD program. He has five children and is still an excellent father. I however could never do that. I am starting full time school this semester while also working full time and I have only two children. That will llikely be the absolute limit of what I can handle. The point is that some people can easily graduate without debt but for others it is a struggle. For someone pursuing the ministry like myself it seems prudent to graduate debt free but for someone who is going to go right in to a high paying job a little debt might not be too terrible. 

Josh,

There are no employment certainties. How many graduates in the last five years expected to go right into a high paying job but couldn't find work because of the state of the economy? Biblically, the best pattern is to do everything reasonably within our power to avoid debt as much as possible. The borrower is still servant of the lender (Proverbs 22:7). That doesn't make debt innately sinful, though I think many believers will have to give an account for unwise and unnecessary debt someday when they stand before the Lord. In some cases, I don't think it is possible to graduate from college completely debt free without stretching school out over 40 years. On the other hand, I don't know many college students who couldn't get by more cheaply or afford to stretch school out a couple of years in order to reduce or eliminate debt. There is no universal law that says we must finish our BA in 4 years, or else we have somehow failed. 

Chip. I absolutely agree that it is best to avoid debt. I would even go as far as to say it is foolish to borrow if it is at all avoidable. You are also correct that there are no guaranteed jobs out there. But there are some where you can have more certainty than others. A friend of mine that graduated from high school the same year as I became a doctor while I went directly into the workforce. By the time he was finished I had made approximately 500,000 dollars and he had substantial debt. There were many job offers available to him when he graduated (as is the case with medical doctors in many if not most cases) and he has now paid off his debt and surpassed me. Was it unwise for him to take on debt? Maybe but IMO there are factors to consider that make it not totally black and white.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

josh p wrote:
...IMO there are factors to consider that make it not totally black and white.
Totally agree, Josh. However, you would agree that doctors entering the medical profession would be a minority exception that most college students wouldn't equate to, right?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

but I am more interested in my students LEARNING something, than graduating with no debt.

I'm with you, Mark, I just don't think these are mutually exclusive goals.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

josh p's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

josh p wrote:
...IMO there are factors to consider that make it not totally black and white.
Totally agree, Josh. However, you would agree that doctors entering the medical profession would be a minority exception that most college students wouldn't equate to, right?

Yeah definitely.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Mark:

I did my undergrad in Emergency & Disaster Management while I was an anti-terrorism planner for the military full-time, taught Sunday School at church and had a family life. Not everybody goes to college from 18-22, lives in a dorm and does nothing but study.

There are a huge number of professionals who go back to school and get their undergrad degrees in their late twenties, thirties or beyond. These students don't fit the stereotype of going to college to "get a piece of paper." They are working professionals who went back to college to learn something.

I hear what you're saying, Mark, but there are a lot of different people with very different motives going to college. I got my MA under the same circumstances as my undergrad; (1) fulltime job, (2) church ministries, (3) family life. I'm studying for my MDiv now under these circumstances as well!

You will only get out of school what you put into it. Some people skate by, do the minimum and graduate. Others apply themselves, actually understand the material and can apply it.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mark_Smith's picture

 I was trying to make, which apparently Chip and Tyler disagree with, is that the average student who thinks "I am going to graduate with no debt by working 40+ hours a week and take 21 hours each semester because I am young and don't need to eat or sleep" is more interested in finishing and not getting into debt than they are in learning. I GUARANTEE that the student I describe does NOT do the reading assignments, crams the night before the exam, does little studying, NEVER thinks about the large issues of the class they are taking, and has a simple "easy to complete" major. How can I guarantee that? I see it a couple of dozen times EVERY semester just in the classes I teach.

 

At my University the two most popular majors, BY FAR (I mean double anything else) are communications and criminal justice. Another high contender is art. Often students tell me all of their major classes have open book tests...No/few reading assignments. It is truly scary.

 

I often get students who put off taking their required science electives until the end. I am not exaggerating to say that MANY can't write complete sentences, let alone a paragraph. They have know idea how to use Microsoft Word, which means they haven't been writing papers. They lack basic research skills with the internet. Often they have no idea how to study for exams even though they are seniors because their major classes required no memorization.

Mark_Smith's picture

I served in the Marine Corps 4 years before going to college. Even with the GI Bill I graduated with debt. But I loved every minute of it. I love learning. While in the Marines I thought about completing my degree on base. It would've been easy. I could've completed a degree in "ELECTRONICS MANAGEMENT" in 2.5 years. But I sat in on one class and realized it was a joke and I waited to go to real college when I was done.

 

I had a friend who wanted to be an officer so he completed the Electronics Management degree. He applied for 3 years to get into Officer Candidate School with the supposedly Marine Corps approved EM degree. They wouldn't accept it. Even they knew the degree was a joke!

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

 I was trying to make, which apparently Chip and Tyler disagree with, is that the average student who thinks "I am going to graduate with no debt by working 40+ hours a week and take 21 hours each semester because I am young and don't need to eat or sleep" is more interested in finishing and not getting into debt than they are in learning. I GUARANTEE that the student I describe does NOT do the reading assignments, crams the night before the exam, does little studying, NEVER thinks about the large issues of the class they are taking, and has a simple "easy to complete" major. How can I guarantee that? I see it a couple of dozen times EVERY semester just in the classes I teach.

Mark,

My point was that this is not a guarantee you can back up, especially with your self-reported limited experience. You are making ridiculous and foolish statements now. I can GUARANTEE you that I thought "I am going to graduate with no debt by working 40+ hours a week and taking 21 hours each semester because I am young and don't need to sleep" (if you knew me you wouldn't question whether I ate), and I WASN'T more interested in finishing without debt than I was in learning. I can GUARANTEE you I also went to school with a number of other people who worked 40+ hours a week, took 17-18 (not usually the 20+ I was taking) credits a semester and were interested in graduating with as little debt AND as much learning as possible. These students did ALL the reading assignments, exceeded the requirements for class projects, studied continuously and constantly discussed large issues of the classes they were taking both in the classroom and out of it with peers. The students at my undergrad all carried double majors in Bible and something else, and the majority of them were intensely dedicated to the pursuit at hand. Sadly, this was not everyone, but it was the majority of my small, accredited Christian college. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Mark_Smith's picture

The majority of your fellow students took 17-18 hours, worked 40+ hours a week, yet still met in discussion groups, laboring over the issues of your classes...wow, I want to see this school!

 

Have a nice evening.

 

 

Mark_Smith's picture

Giving you the benefit of the faith that what you describe is accurate, WILL YOU ADMIT that what you describe is H I G H L Y unusual and is H I G H L Y atypical of American college student behavior?

I teach around 160 general ed students each semester and I have NEVER seen what you describe...

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I said from the start that I agreed there was a serious problem. My main contention was your blanket statements. I would agree what I am describing is a minority in secular undergraduate programs. However, I think the numbers shift among graduate students, and I have seen a much more serious approach among Christian school undergraduates on the whole than among their secular undergraduates. So no, I wouldn't go so far as to call it highly unusual or atypical. Furthermore, I am shocked to hear you say you never see it - not even one time. Makes me wonder why your school isn't able to recruit any of the upper tier students - not even one.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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