Educated into Slavery

It’s been eight years since I graduated from college.

I went to community college paying my way nearly entirely by student loan. And when I graduated, I not only had a shiny diploma and no job, but a brand new friend:

About $15,000 in student debt.

I understand that for many, this is not a lot of money. But for a graphic design graduate—a field that in London pays slightly better than minimum wage—this was terrifying.

Paying the minimum payment every month, it would have taken ten years to clear out my loans (thankfully, we were able to get this taken care of a lot sooner). However, I know far too many men and women who are still paying off their education long after they’ve left the field.

Today, the average university undergrad degree costs between thirty and fifty thousand dollars in Canada (this includes housing and food).

That’s a crazy amount of money for a degree that may not ever get used.

While I’m grateful for the education I’ve received and for the skills that I picked up that led me to becoming a full-time writer (wait, what?), it seems to me that we’re at risk of educating ourselves into slavery.

“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender,” says Proverbs 22:7.

Whenever we are indebted to someone else—be it an individual or an institution—we are, in a very real sense, enslaved to it.

We must repay in a timely fashion. To take on too much is to risk defaulting.

While Scripture doesn’t explicitly condemn debt, there is a general principle throughout that suggests that debt—especially financial—is unwise.

What’s been on my mind of late has been whether or not we really consider the cost when approaching education (or houses for that matter).

When we’re making our choice for school and program, have we looked at how we’re planning to pay for our education in a timely fashion?

In Luke 14:26-33, Jesus said,

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

Even as he is speaking of the cost of discipleship, Jesus reminds us of the truth that we must consider the cost in all things, lest we be revealed as foolish.

This includes our choices in our educations.

It’s unwise for us to be educated into slavery, simply because we’ve not counted the cost.

So what do we do?

How do we consider the cost in education? How do we avoid becoming enslaved by it?

I have a few suggestions that relate particularly to those in their thirties and up who might be considering additional education and changing fields:

First, we should examine ourselves. What are we really passionate about? What do we want to do with our lives? These are a couple of the questions that we should ask ourselves as we seek to “count the cost.”

Second, we should plan. Pray and research what lines up with our passions. Look into the cost of tuition at an institution. What scholarships are available? Is a B.A. necessary or will a community college education serve just as well? Perhaps look for an opportunity to go through an informational interview with someone already working in your field of interest.

Third, we should save. Rather than starting right away, perhaps it would be better for us to build up a reasonable amount of savings to, if not eliminate the need for student loans, at least offset them significantly.

If I had to do things over again, I would like to think that I would have been much more intentional with determining my education. I went to the school I went with the program I did only because it was the one that accepted me and I needed to go to school. (It was also the most affordable option; I had planned on being a comic book artist & going to school at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon & Graphic Art.) 

There was very little thought that went into it, in all honesty.

This was unwise.

I didn’t count the cost.

My encouragement for you, if you’re considering a career change and going back to school is simply this:

Don’t make that mistake. Think carefully. Pray fervently.

But do consider the cost.

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  • http://www.hillsbiblechurch.org/ Don

    When we are young, we often make unwise decisions. We lack the experience, foresight or wisdom that comes with maturity. Ones educational choices have a life-long impact, yet we tend to be unequipped to make the right choices.

    For a variety of reasons, I didn’t do well in high school. I finished my final year with a number of fails. So I left school and started working at semi-skilled work in a factory. After a few years of this boring and financially unrewarding work, and at the prompting of my wife (I was married in my early twenties) I went back to school to make up my high school shortfalls and obtain university entrance.

    However the advice I received following my course make-up was to attend business college and obtain a two year business diploma. It didn’t have the prestige of a full degree, but it fast-tracked me into a business career.

    It was working in business where I learned the truth that a general degree like a BA did little more than crack doors open. It certainly did little to prepare one educationally with business skills or knowledge. I was thankful for the basic business training I received at college and often found myself out-performing university grad’s because of this training.

    But down the road, my education and that of my business compatriots that had gone the university route mattered little. What mattered was ones ability to understand people, work with them and once into management get them to work with you.

    When I look back on my business career, I am thankful to God for the success I experienced in business. Many of the people skill to which I’ve alluded, I gained due to my church experience. It was at church I learnt to speak in public. It was at church that I learned my people skills and at church where I honed my leadership skills. So though I didn’t obtain a university degree, I obtained a far better education through my church involvement.

    And God blessed this experience by directing my career, opening and shut doors, directing me to an employer who respected integrity and diligence, and offering me job positions that apart from God were far above my expectations or skill level.

    I retired seven years ago after 15 years as CEO of a very profitable $35M subsidiary of a global company that when I started was loosing over $2M per year.

    Only by the grace of God!

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