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Catholic Colleges: Tackling Student Loans Ethically

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It's almost an assumption in today's world that students will take out a staggering amount of debt to be able to attend a four year university. And, with college costs rising faster than the rate of inflation, 18 year olds are signing themselves up for increasingly heavier financial burdens that they may or may not be able to dig themselves out of.

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While certainly many Catholic colleges fall in line with the national averages of tuition costs, there are a few institutions that are attempting to apply a more Catholic view of education and finances. These Catholic colleges apply their faith and their genuine desire to serve their students in more ways than just handing out diplomas. And, in doing so, they provide an example to their students of generosity moral uprightness and virtues such as diligence and dedication.

Take Christendom College, for example, who refuses to accept any federal funding, including for student loans. They believe that this decision has "proven prophetic given the federal government's current assault on religious freedom and its expanding use of funding conditions to promote policy preferences." This Catholic college is willing to sacrifice some financial gain so that their consciences are not compromised.

Or consider Northeast Catholic College who has offered an $8,000 four-year scholarship to incoming freshman and transfer students who apply by August 15. They want students to be able to immerse themselves in the richness of the Catholic faith and the wisdom of a Great Books education, without yoking themselves with unreasonable debt. In addition, they cover the student loan debts of alumni who enter the priesthood or religious life through their Fulton Sheen initiative!

Then, of course, there are universities that are wading into the world of online education, making it more possible for students to work full-time while studying for a degree. The Institute for the Psychological Sciences, for example, offers an online M.S. in Psychology to students ranging from priests in New Zealand to professionals across the United States. An online education equips students to serve more effectively in their ministries and professions even before they finish their degree. And, at the same time, students are able to help fund their education by continuing to work.

These schools - and a number of others, through their actions drive home the point that education is about more than just building the infrastructure of a university, selling a "product" of a brand name education. Believing that a solid Catholic education can help students to grow in knowledge, ability and virtue inspires these schools to consider seriously how they can make education a more financially viable option-without leading students by the hand into a tremendous amount of debt.

Of course, education cannot be truly free. Faculty and staff deserve just wages, and campus buildings and resources take money to develop and maintain. But, by discerning the best way to make college education affordable, these Catholic colleges acknowledge in a tangible way that education is not just a business, but an opportunity to teach students to pursue the good, the true and the beautiful in their studies.   

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