September 2013 – “The borrower is slave to the lender,” declares an ancient biblical proverb (Proverbs 22:7). Aptly applied, that could mean the U.S. government has now enslaved more than 37 million of its young adult citizens.
According to American Student Assistance, 37 million people have outstanding federal student loans, the average near $25,000 and some well over $200,000.
Fresh out of college, these hopeful graduates must quickly adapt to grim reality. Their college debts must now be paid – with interest. Owing a whopping, collective $864 million, these borrowers are so trapped by their educational funding choices that many of them must pay the government as much as 20% of their personal monthly income in order to stay current with those federal loans. More than 40% of these federal debtors will become delinquent at some point during the first five years of loan repayment.
However, one unique U.S. institution of higher learning boasts no alumni trapped in this financial bondage.
Independent and free
Hillsdale College is an independent, private facility located in rural southern Michigan with a diverse enrollment of 1,400 students. Independent is a key word to describe this four-year, liberal arts institution. From its inception in 1844, Hillsdale took a firm stance on non-discrimination, standing firmly against slavery and firmly for the education of women.
It was the first American college to prohibit (in its very charter) any type of discrimination, whether based on race, religion or gender. Also, Hillsdale was the second U.S. college to offer women a four-year degree program.
With an original mission centered on two principles, academic excellence and institutional independence, Hillsdale also aims to promote both civil and religious liberty. Director of admissions Jeff Lantis recently told AFA Journal the college’s core curriculum is the foundation for a classic liberal arts education with an obviously Judeo-Christian influence – quite a refreshing contrast to the typical liberal arts curriculum.
In fact, Hillsdale is so committed to the strength of its core curriculum that all students are required to take five classes unique to Hillsdale, two centered on Great Books literature, two on American and Western history and one on the American Constitution.
Lantis believes these courses are a must for Hillsdale students, helping to carry out the school’s original mission by emphasizing the importance of “self-government under the rule of law.”
That ability to self-govern while adhering to the law was severely tested during the 1970s and ’80s when the federal government began to demand that Hillsdale account for its students by race. The government felt this demand should be met without hesitation, since some Hillsdale students at that time were receiving federal education loans. Independently principled Hillsdale disagreed. A court battle ensued, culminating in a U.S. Supreme Court decision against Hillsdale in 1984.
Following that decision, Hillsdale resolved never to succumb to such unmerited federal intrusion, choosing instead to forgo all future federal and state assistance for its students. That policy still stands today. Hillsdale College is financially independent of any government support, even student loans.
Some might think it virtually impossible to receive a college education without some federal aid. But it happens for every single student at Hillsdale, where students are guided through a financial aid process similar to that on any campus in the nation.
Financial aid counselors help parents and students file the forms, examine income and assets, and estimate a realistic student/family contribution amount and then calculate what sum will be needed to fund each semester. But that is where the process changes for Hillsdale students.
Such a difference in financial aid policy and procedure, Lantis emphasized, is strictly due to the amazing support afforded Hillsdale students through generous private donations. Privately funded grants and scholarships given to Hillsdale students exceed $20 million annually.
Lantis said Hillsdale is “blessed with a national leadership audience” which provides enough funding for students to be offered some type of aid program to virtually mirror everything federal lenders offer. It is no wonder then that Hillsdale is consistently touted by The Princeton Review as a “Best Value” among American colleges.
Yes, Hillsdale College is a great value, perhaps even a priceless treasure in today’s academic environment. The problem is that only 1,400 students at one time can benefit from financial resources available there. So, what options do other students have?
The answer is not simple, and it will require time and effort.
Finding other options
Lantis urges students to view college as an earned privilege and not an entitlement. He believes a college education should be a family-based decision since its cost will have long lasting ramifications for the entire family.
With that thought in mind, start early. He suggests that students should take advantage of any dual-enrollment classes offered at local high schools in which students can begin to earn college credit, or take advanced placement classes that are often transferable as credit hours.
Look at all the options. Compare colleges by examining admission policies, tuition prices, available services, degree programs, graduation rates, teacher-to-student ratios, housing and food costs – and even career placement services.
Research all the possibilities. Look at smaller private colleges versus larger state universities. Some two-year community colleges offer an amazing financial option for higher education.
Get an appointment and ask questions. Colleges and universities provide prospective students and parents with financial aid counseling free of charge. Come to the appointment with a prepared list of questions and concerns.
Research available scholarships, grants and low-interest private loans. Or simply take it slow. Some students opt to alternately work a semester and then study a semester until graduation. A college degree without a yoke of financial bondage might be well worth the wait.
After all, the truth is that the borrower really is slave to the lender. With that warning in mind, perhaps it is time to consider the example of Hillsdale College – no more dependence on governmental funding in any area of life, educational or otherwise. Such financial independence is most certainly a challenge. Such a challenge might best be met if all U.S. colleges and universities adopt the motto of Hillsdale College and teach students first and foremost, “Strength rejoices in the challenge.”
And if the history of Hillsdale College demonstrates one thing, it shows that America is up to that challenge.
OUTSTANDING HILLSDALE RESOURCES
IMPRIMIS – Hillsdale’s monthly no-frills newsletter is one of the most influential conservative publications in American academia. Each issue features a speech from a school-hosted event. The Imprimis archive at www.hillsdale.edu includes speeches from conservative orators such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher among others. Imprimis, Latin for “in the first place,” boasts some 2.6 million readers.
CONSTITUTION 101 – This required course for all Hillsdale students is available free online. (A small gift is suggested, but not required.) This online version of the course consists of 10 lectures, examining the past, present and future of the Constitution. Dr. Larry P. Arnn, Hillsdale College president, is one of several prestigious presenters.