Student debt hampers global missions

Pursuing mission work overseas is a difficult task.

Lucas Weaver, Writer

The majority of college students face unseemly amounts of student loans awaiting them as soon as their president hands them a diploma. Biola is no exception as a private four-year institution that costs $46,400 a year. Most students graduating from Biola head directly into the workforce and begin hacking away at the mountain of debt before them. Where does this leave those willing to give up a job and a career and go spread the gospel overseas? Where does this leave our missionaries?

Unburdening our missionaries

There is no shortage of debt for college students. The graduating class of 2016 had an average debt of $37,172, which is up six percent from last year. As soon as students obtain a job, they are expected to begin paying off debt. This does not leave our missionaries very many options. It is impossible to ask anyone with that amount of debt to drop everything and go overseas to begin a primarily support-based lifestyle.

To solve the problem, missionaries must consider different solutions. There are ways for missionaries serving overseas to fund themselves, such as The GO Fund. This nonprofit organization was founded in 2012 by Luke Womack and will help graduates from any school pay off their debt, providing they minister to unreached people groups. Yet even with support from nonprofits it takes years before all loans are paid off. Several schools have already initiated a way to unburden their students.

Liberty University has realized this rising problem for those wishing to serve overseas. The school has created the LU Serve International Loan Repayment Program. This program will pay off 20 percent per year of the student loan, up to $30,000 per individual. This program also goes hand in hand with the Missionary Kid Scholarship, which offers either a full or partial scholarship to any child of a missionary wishing to attend Liberty, consequently removing the child’s own debt if they choose to follow in their parents footsteps. Biola University does have a scholarship for dependents of missionaries or pastors but it is an annual scholarship of $1,000 divided between fall and spring.

A debt forgiveness plan

Liberty is not the only school to set up programs for those called to missions. Wheaton College has a debt forgiveness program in place as well. The George and Helen Bennett Fund for Missionary Service looks to relieve the debt of graduates who are looking to go overseas and spread the gospel. Messiah College has a program as well that works to remove missionary debt of these schools have taken great steps to encouraging prospective missionaries to be unafraid of the debt they will face and follow the Lord’s calling for their lives.

Biola is not only a top academic institution in the country but remains one of the foremost Bible university in the country. The Student Missions Union is the largest student-run missions organization in the country. Missions Conference brings together missionaries from across the planet who have been serving the Lord. The conferences inspires students to reach out and spread the gospel. Biola does offer a small missionary child scholarship, but is very minimal compared to other universities.  As of yet there is no program in place to alleviate the debt of graduates looking to become missionaries. Graduates of Biola called to missions are hampered down with student loans just as the majority of others. It is time for Biola to step up and put forth some sort of support to encourage more graduates to enter the long-term missions field.

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