Where Have all the Students Gone?

12 Jun

The student loan crisis may not rise to the level of student protest movements of the past.  Heavy student loan debt may not bring the dramatic mass protests of the civil rights, anti-war protest, women’s rights, gay rights or the environment movement. However, the economical and social impact of the enormous level of student loan debt has potential.

I am not concerned to predict the next student protest movement.  I am, however, most concerned that campus ministry take the lead in addressing the moral crisis of this widespread injustice on our campuses.  Political, media, economic and social commentators are speaking loudly on this crisis.  Where is the voice of the church on this issue which impales the near and long term future of students?  Instead of waiting for ecclesiological leaders and denominational agencies to step up and speak, could it be the time for campus ministers to utter a prophetic word!

As more students and families struggle to pay ever increasing costs of a college education a system is in place which encourages pervasive borrowing without regard for students ability to pay for these loans.  If you have been following this issue, you are aware that the cost of college tuition has increased at triple the rate of inflation and the financial support to colleges and universities by state and federal governments have plummeted in recent years.  The result is reported by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that student loan debt has passed $1 trillion dollars. The average student loan debt estimates for 2012 college graduates is $27,000 to $50,000.  Also, this is a debt which will not go away, even taking bankruptcy will not provide relief. It is appalling that the political impasse in Washington could result in a planned 100 percent increase in student loan rates by the end of this month

There is good news: Representative Hansen Clarke of Michigan has introduced H.R. 4170, the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, in the House of Representatives – legislation designed to lend a helping hand to those struggling under massive amounts of student loan debt.  Information about this bill and other proposals can be found on the Forgive Student Loan Debt website: http://forgivestudentloandebt.com    An online petition to support the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 is found on this link – http://signon.org/sign/support-the-student-loan

It is appalling that the political impasse in Washington could result in a planned 100 percent increase in student loan rates by the end of this month. Time is running out!  Campus ministers must be well-informed on this issue.   We must be in ministry now with our students and instruct them before they travel to the financial aid office.  Campus minister and student leaders in our campus ministries must speak now on this systemic crisis.   The biblical warning about debt endows us with a profound theological insight.  It is critical to organized efforts for students to express their outrage and take political action.

Crippling effects of this debt is apparent for the future of current students but also for our society.  Saddled with this financial ball and chain, students will be also thwarted in full church participation and leadership. If campus ministry does not act, then a new verse may be added to the old Peter, Paul and Mary song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”

Where have all the students  gone, long time passing?
Where have all the students  gone, long time ago?
Where have all the students  gone?
Gone to poverty everyone
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

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Bill Campbell is the United Methodist campus minister at the Wesley Foundation at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN.   He has hung around the college campus for many years hoping some youth

would rub off and somebody, out of sympathy, would throw a degree his way.   When the weather is nice Bill can be found driving around with the top down on his Miata, teaching his daughter Eryn to drive a stick shift.  Other times, his wife Trinace, has him working on projects around the house,  while his son-in-law, John, patiently teaches him to fly fish.   Bill received a B.S. in Social Work & Psychology from Lambuth University, and a Master of Theology from Southern Methodist University.  A D.Min from Wesley Theological Seminary awaits a project (when it is finally safe to write) on General Conference and campus ministry.

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