Maria Ham of West Orange, NJ, is carrying more than $100,000 in federal and private student loans from her years as an undergraduate at Yale University and as a medical student at the University of Hawaii. She estimates it will take 30 years to pay off those loans, and has said President Obama’s student debt relief plan came as welcome news.
“I think it definitely helps,” Ham said in an interview with The Christian Post. She added that being a Christian gave her extra incentive to live debt-free. “In the event that I’d like to do something like missions, I’d like to do that without any debt hanging over me.”
Those shouldering loans from college and graduate school expressed mixed feelings toward the plan Obama unveiled in Denver on Wednesday. While most welcome help of any sort, some question whether the measures will make a significant dent in what can seem like a mountain of student debt. And Christian graduates face the added question of how to deal with debt in a way that is consistent with their faith in God.
“I think there is a component of trusting in God to provide the finances whether very practically, or occasionally in an unexpected way,” Ham told CP. “At the same time, I feel a responsibility to be financially responsible with my money and to not just live within my means, but ideally to live below my means so I can support missions and live a consistent lifestyle not based on materialism or being in debt.”
Maggie Duckworth, a 34-year-old executive assistant in New York City who graduated from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, told CP that she spent time on the White House website to see if she qualified for any form of loan reduction.
“I still owe a substantial amount of student loans, although I pay every month, and I have for years,” Duckworth told CP. “On [the White House website] they give a calculator to see if you’re eligible. And I’m not. I make too much money.”
Duckworth’s specific case had to do with the portion of the program that caps loan payments at 10 percent of discretionary income, rather than 15 percent as previously dictated.
Duckworth added that while her salary may seem high, the White House program does not take into account cost of living, which in Manhattan, Duckworth said, is also very high. But she has already made every effort, including paying more than the monthly minimum on her loans, to try to reduce her debt. “I don’t want to be 45 and paying off student loans from undergrad,” Duckworth told CP.
Part of her urgency to be rid of debt comes from the desire to be available to follow God’s will for her life, without reservation.
“I feel like this debt is a hindrance,” Duckworth told CP. “I feel like if I have debt it keeps me from pursuing other things. And if I were called to missions or a lower income area [of work] I’d be hesitant, not because I don’t have faith in the Lord, but because I don’t think I’d be able to cover my finances.”