In the last decade, student loan debt in the United States has become a nearly inescapable problem. Experts now use words like "staggering" and "crisis" to describe the fact that some 40 million adults in the U.S. carry college debt to the collective tune of a record-breaking $1.2 trillion.
And the numbers are only climbing.
Case in point: A recent Brookings Institution study found that between 2004 and 2012, not only did the number of students borrowing for their education increase by 70 percent, so too did the amount the average student owed. Another independent research group, the Institute for College Access & Success, found that 69 percent of college seniors who graduated from a public school in 2014 did so with education debt. And these debts were no small potatoes; the average borrower owed almost $29,000. That's the cost of a small luxury car.
Given the pervasiveness of student loan debt today, it's not surprising that such debt has started to have a noticeable effect on postgraduate vocations -- a fairly new phenomenon. After all, some 60 years ago, it was commonplace for a woman to enter the convent right out of high school, her community then paying for her post-secondary education. In fact, in those days, a vocation was one sure ways a woman could get a college education.
But today, most -- if not all -- women come to religious life with at least one degree already under their belts, which means they are also bringing their financial baggage with them into the discernment process. Many religious communities simply cannot afford to take in candidates with large student loan debt.