Student Loans Derailing Dreams of Religious Life

While the precipitous decline in vocations to religious life seems to have bottomed out,  student loans, a serious and growing problem in our society (a $ One trillion debt, which exceeds credit-card debt), may be seriously impeding future vocations.  Many who are inquiring about religious life find that their negative wealth prevents them from pursuing  a life of poverty.  In essence they are too poor to take the vow of poverty!
CARA did a study of religious institutes (both men and women) and learned the following:
*  In the past ten years, religious communities have fielded 15,000 serious inquiries concerning religious life. 33% of those inquiries involved a person with student loans which averaged more than $28,000–close to the national average for recent graduates.
*  Among the institutes with several inquiries from people with educational debt, many were asked to delay their application (presumably until the debt is cleared), while 69% turned away at least one person because of student loans.
*  One in three persons formally applying to a religious institute had educational debt averaging $20,821.  In half these cases, they were not accepted because of the debt.
*  Two-thirds of the responding institutes have assumed some applicants’ educational debt, but for many it has become financially stressful.
* The financial strain will likely intensify.  More than half of the responding institutes that experienced this issue said the number of inquirers with student loans is increasing.
Educational Debut and Vocations to Religious Life: A report for the National Religious Vocation Conference, by Mary L. Gautier and Melissa A. cidade, February 2012, is available on the CARA website (cara.georgetown.edu/publications/publications.html)

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