Study: Student debt hurts new pastors

Average debt of $25,000
Seminarians preparing to serve as pastors are increasingly taking out low-interest government loans to pay educational costs, but researchers say that trend is dangerously compounding the struggles of fledgling ministers and small churches.

A new nationwide study of the debts of seminary graduates shows that more than one-third of M.Div. graduates who borrowed in the decade before 2001 carried an average debt of $25,000—up from the nearly $14,500 average debt incurred ten years earlier.

Reporting on their findings at the recent biennial meeting of the Association of Theological Schools, Sharon Miller and Anthony Ruger of the Auburn Center for the Study of Theological Education said many new clergy are experiencing “personal and marital stress, delays in buying homes and health care,” or have left the ministry.


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