According to the just released NRVC/CARA Study on Educational Debt and Vocations to Religious Life, seven in ten institutes (69 percent) turned away at least one person because of student loans. In addition, many religious communities ask young people to delay their applications to enter because of educational debt.
“For those entering religious life, the expectation is that they be debt-free,” says Holy Cross Brother Paul Bednarczyk, Executive Director of NRVC, “but for graduates in today’s economy, where education costs have risen by 900 percent since 1978, paying off loans can take years to accomplish. The burden of student debt has become a serious problem for religious communities desirous of welcoming younger members.”
Of approximately 15,000 serious inquiries to men’s and women’s religious institutes in the past 10 years, one in three (32 percent) involved a person with educational debt averaging $28,000, a figure slightly higher than the $25,000 national average.
The practice of assuming debt places a heavy and growing financial burden on religious communities, the study reveals. Those applying to enter religious life during the past 10 years carried $3 million in educational debt, and if national trends continue, that overall student debt load will likely rise by 5 percent annually.
Men and women whose educational debt is delaying their entrance into a religious community often develop creative strategies for paying off their loans, such as online candy sales, marathon runs, or bingo fundraisers.
“Because religious sisters, brothers, and priests are vital to the life of the church and provide great service to society,” says Bednarczyk: “we plan to bring together key stakeholders to develop strategies to ease this significant and growing barrier to religious vocations.” Time for everyone to put their thinking caps . . .
NOTE: Vocation Match has been tracking this debt trend. In 2011, 40 percent of VISION site visitors who completed a Vocation Match profile said they were not debt-free that was up from 27 percent in 2007. So far in 2012, 38 percent of reader respondents say they are not debt free. Find more VISION reader stats here. Also in a recent Fall 2010 Tiny Snapshot Survey, 49 percent of respondents answered YES to the question: Has debt affected your readiness or eligibility to religious life?