Student loan debt (still) hindering vocations?


Well, not really; only about 10% of them.

Georgetown’s CARA released a report entitled “New Sisters and Brothers Professing Perpetual Vows in Religious Life: The Profession Class of 2013.” Though the USCCB news release, and several similar stories, focus on the student loan debt issue in its headline, the single page of the report (p.15) dedicated to educational debt actually suggests a relatively minor delay:

One in ten responding religious (10 percent) report that educational debt delayed their application for entrance to the religious institute…

Most responding religious of the Profession Class of 2013 report that educational debt did not delay their application for entrance. Among those that were delayed by educational debt, however, the average delay was two years.

On average, responding religious had $31,100 in educational debt at the time they first applied for entrance to their religious institute. Men and women were about the same in the amount of educational debt they reported.

None of the brothers reported receiving assistance in paying down their educational debt prior to entering their religious institute. Among women religious, several reported assistance

I was reminded of my inaugural appearance on the CV blog, wherein I hoped to bring some balance to the frequent suggestions that student loan rates need to be low to combat educational debt. I proffered that college costs increase because of financial aid availability, and that an argument can be made for the sinfulness of low interest rates along with the more familiar sinfulness of high interest rates. Thinking that we can reduce the burden of educational debt by lowering student loan rates is akin to thinking we can reduce the burden of credit card debt by lowering credit card interest rates: that “solution” may be a cosmetic fix, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem.
Most of higher education is burdened by bureaucratic bloat which raises costs, and revenue/tuition that is paid only indirectly by students. Most dollars flowing to schools today come not from today’s students but from today’s taxpayers. We all tend to overspend when we spend tomorrow’s dollars rather than today’s.

If we want to get serious about the educational debt problem, to promote vocations or for some other purpose, let’s push to 1) keep student loan rates from being artificially low, and 2)  instill some business sense among college administrators. Perhaps doing so will encourage those future seminarians or religious to appreciate the importance of business sense.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Tim Shaughnessy is a cradle Catholic living in Shreveport, Louisiana with undergraduate degrees in economics and political science from Kalamazoo College, and a Master’s and Ph.D. in economics from Florida State University. He teaches economics at the undergraduate and graduate level, and is a faculty advisor for the campus Catholic student organization. He has worked at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty and was the first managing editor for the Journal of Markets & Morality while an undergraduate. He also worked for Representative Harold Voorhees in the Michigan state legislature. He serves the parish RCIA program as a sponsor and lecturer, and is active in parish and diocesan pro-life activities.

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