Student debt is a massive problem. Young people who go to university or college in Britain are given loans to help pay their tuition fees and living costs. Every year £16 billion is loaned to students. The value of outstanding loans is more than £105 billion. The Government forecasts the value of outstanding student loans will rise to £450 billion in the next 30 years. The average debt of a recent cohort of students, who have completed their courses, is £32,000. It is estimated that only 30% of current full-time graduates who take out loans will repay them in full.
In America the problem is even greater and has become an issue in the run up to the 2020 presidential election. The total U.S. student loan debt is more than $1.3 trillion and affects 44 million people. The average loan balance is $37,000 and increases every year because of interest charges. Today many Americans in their 20s, 30s and 40s consider themselves fortunate if their job pays them enough to make their student loan repayments. Some former students refer to their loans as a “debt sentence” which they will carry throughout their whole life.
The recent action of billionaire technology investor Robert F Smith has brought great joy to one class of students at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. Morehouse College was established soon after the American Civil War to provide education for black male students. Martin Luther King Jnr. was a student at Morehouse. When he was at the College to receive an honorary doctorate, Robert Smith told the students in the class of 2019 that he would pay their student loans. More than 400 students will benefit from this gift which will cost tens of millions of dollars. The College President said the gift will give the students “the liberty to follow their dreams.”
The biggest problem we all face is not financial debt but the debt we owe to God because of our sins. Every day this debt grows, and we can never repay it. The greatest act of love and generosity in the whole of human history was when Jesus, God’s Son, gave his life to pay the debt of our sins. Every day millions of people pray to God, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” When we confess our sins to God, and experience his forgiveness, he sets us free to live a new life in fellowship with him; the life for which we were created.
Many young people have received their exam results. Those who have achieved the grades they needed are happy and ready to take up their degree courses. Those who did not achieve the required grades are sad and are beginning to consider their options. It is important for those who have not secured a university place to remember that they have passed their exams and have achieved A level qualifications which open the way for a variety of excellent careers.
The future for those who are going to university will certainly have its challenges. The National Union of Students has estimated that students beginning their degree courses this September will leave university with an average debt of £53000. Those studying vocational courses will probably find a job soon after they graduate, but there are many graduates who are unemployed and finding it difficult to get any kind of job.
Our society values people according to their achievements. It is assumed that those who achieve high grades in school or university, or achieve sporting success, are more valuable than those of us who do not. In the Olympic Games it was sometimes implied that winning a silver or bronze medal was a failure! They were not the best but “the best of the rest!”
Ultimately the most important thing about us is not what we do, but what we are. Most of us are ordinary people who will never achieve great success in education or sport. Our true value lies in the fact that God created us and we are precious to him. We can find true happiness and fulfilment through knowing him and living our lives in fellowship with him.
What is your aim in life? Young people who want to go to university work hard in order to achieve the grades they need. Athletes who want to win an Olympic medal train hard in order to succeed. As he reflected on the purpose of his life in this world, the apostle Paul said his goal was to please God. He knew that at the end of his life he, and everyone who has ever lived, must stand before God. Ultimately that is the only test that matters. Paul knew his need and rejoiced that God sent his Son, Jesus, into this world to give us hope. As we put our trust in Jesus as our Saviour he gives us real confidence for time and eternity.