Chapter 1 — Introduction
“Of course it won’t work. That’s the fun of it!”
Our daughter has completed three years of college and plans to graduate. There have been no student loans. No, she did not qualify for a full ride. We aren’t paying her way. Nor is she working ridiculous hours. And although an extreme financial crisis made us the most “for sure” student loan candidates around, we firmly refused to take that route.
That was the first paragraph in my article, “Lord of Financial Aid,” which appeared in The Lookout June 11, 1995. Some readers were skeptical. Perhaps a lucky break or two had made it possible for our oldest child to manage her first three years of college without taking loans. But how would the scenario play out as time went on and as the kid brothers entered the picture?
Since that article was published, Karis has graduated debt free (five years of school). Her younger brother Cason graduated as I’m writing this—also debt free (five years). The youngest, Clinton, has finished his third year. Debt free. (He will graduate in two more years.) Their cousin Arian has just completed her second year of college. Same plan. Same results.
That’s 15 years of college. Debt free.
What follows are the particulars of how they did it.
I won’t say we didn’t think about loans when Karis started the college application process. We did. Loans were the hot topic at financial aid meetings sponsored by the high school guidance department. Some families considering loans were obviously frugal people of modest means. Their rationale was much like mine: My child has put up with used prom clothes, sack lunches, and bicycles instead of cars. I can’t bear the final insult—her missing the first year of college with her peers.
I knew just how they felt.
Other loan applicants were three-car families who ate out several times a week and ordered $40 underwear from shops with names like Lamarr’s of L.A. and Drusilla’s Drawers. Loans seemed to be the answer for everyone.
At these financial aid meetings, parents good-naturedly made light of their children’s impending debt: “At least Becky will learn the meaning of $10,000. Plus interest.” As they chuckled, I found it hard to join in. I envisioned large numbers of young people (some wearing expensive underwear) beginning their adult lives financially crippled.
Few seemed worried, however. Even now, the student loan business continues to boom. Indeed, six years after Karis started college, her brother Clinton attended the financial aid session during freshman orientation week at college, where it was assumed every college freshman was applying for loans. Forms were automatically distributed.
Clinton raised his hand. “Do we have to fill this out if we’re not getting loans?” he asked.
Everyone turned and stared.
Even the instructor stared.
Since Clinton had an older brother and sister attending college without loans, he had assumed that at least some other students were doing the same. So he was surprised to find himself odd man out. Though it was an awkward moment, Clinton wasn’t embarrassed. Rather, he was concerned about his classmates and what they might be letting themselves in for by going into debt. With our family’s ongoing interest in the topic of student loans, he knew some of the facts:
- In 1997, college graduates had an average debt of $18,000. 
- To pay this back, a graduate needs to earn $38,000 a year. 
- Actual average income upon graduation is only about $24,000. 
- There used to be a ten-year limit on repaying student loans. But now there are many options offering a thirty-year plan. So, for example, a Stafford Loan of $17,200 at 8.25% interest over 30 years will cost $46,440.  Double this amount if the person you’re marrying is in the same boat. Imagine yourself a newlywed facing almost $100,000 of debt—and you haven’t even bought a house!
- Banks are willing to give students incredible amounts in the form of student loans— $100,000 maximum. 
- In addition, the average college student is carrying a $2200 credit card balance. 
- Since 1980, defaulted college loans have cost taxpayers over 20 billion dollars. 
Clearly, things are out of control. The students in Clinton’s financial aid session looked at him as if he were crazy. But I’m looking at them!
“No!” I want to scream at these smart and promising, but penniless, young people. “Don’t do it!”“Better a little with the fear of the Lord
than great wealth with turmoil.” —Proverbs 15:16
“Yes!” say many legislators, who favor passing laws that would enable every young person in America to qualify for student loans.
“No!” financial experts say. “Get out of debt and stay out.”
“Yes!” say college representatives. “It’s an investment in your future.”
What to do? Whose advice to take?
Listen. No matter where you buy your underwear, you can avoid the student loan route by claiming this simple policy: “Putting my trust in the Lord of Financial Aid, I will not go into debt for college.”
Hey, I heard that groan. And I know the protests by heart: “That’s simply not being realistic. Why, even if God provided half…that’s still…let’s see…well, it just won’t work.”
Of course it won’t. That’s the fun of it! It’s exactly the sort of thing God specializes in. Have we forgotten that God promises he will provide what we need?
He “ …is able to do immeasurably more
than all we ask or imagine.” —Ephesians 3:20
Financial guru Dave Ramsey says, “There is not one place in the Bible where it says it is OK to borrow money. There is not one place where God used debt as a tool to help or save His people.” 
As financial consultant Larry Burkett tells parents, “Remember that college loans, like any loans, restrict God’s ability to direct us. What if God has an alternate plan for financing your children’s college educations, but you don’t ever explore it because of readily available loans?”  To use an analogy from the Bible story of Abraham and Isaac, we place our students on the sacrificial altar of student loans, raise the knife and never even look to see if there’s a lamb in the bushes!
I fretted and wrung my hands about my children’s financial future.
“Do not fret—it leads only to evil.” —Psalm 37:8
Then I claimed the above prayer policy—“Putting my trust in the Lord of Financial Aid, I will not go into debt for college”—as my own.
How can you actually put the policy into practice? I’m confident our experience will give you guidelines and save you a bucket of trouble.