Partners in Ministry Training Program Helps Students Graduate with Less Debt
According to the “Project on Student Debt” study released by the Institute for College Access & Success, the average amount of loan debt for students graduating from Virginia colleges is $26,432.
Regent University’s School of Divinity (DIV) is working to combat this statistic, assisting students who plan to enter the Christian mission field to graduate with little to no student debt through the Partners in Ministry Training (PMT) program.
Through a grant that Regent received from the Lily Endowment, PMT offers students a wide variety of assistance in fundraising training, and up to $750 in support from church partners that Regent will match (up to $1500 per semester) with the Church-match program. “The reality is most pastors don’t make a living wage,” said Ethan White, director of University Advising. “So if you come out of school debt-free and have a handle on your finances, that really helps.”
Graduating debt-free is only one obstacle many students face. Another is gaining full-time employment post-graduation. PMT connects students with churches so that while they’re completing their degree, they also receive hands-on experience within a ministerial context.
The program began in Fall Semester 2015 with a cohort of nine participating students. According to White, five students within the cohort completed the semester without taking out a student loan.
“It’s been exciting to see that we’re making an impact,” said White, who explained that the students who are most aggressive with their fundraising approaches are seeing the best results.
One participant is Leonardo Thomes ’18 (DIV), an international student from Brazil. He said it’s his self-motivation and persistence with sharing his vision for his missions-related goals that have helped him succeed in the PMT program.
“It’s been stretching me in many ways because I’ve been doing things I’ve never done before,” said Thome. “I’m developing relationships with pastors, and people from around the world are encouraging me and supporting me in so many different ways. I believe that’s been the best thing for me. The support.”
The next cohort for the PMT program will begin in Fall 2016 with a fully online cohort. This, White explains, will assist students even further in eliminating unnecessary financial burden.
“Really, the overriding purpose of this whole thing is eliminating debt from schooling. And one of the best practices that we’ve already identified is distance education,” said White. “Don’t uproot yourself. Stay where you are and learn. These variables will help a student’s financial situation.”
White hopes that in the future more schools within the broader university will follow suit with similar training programs to alleviate financial burdens for fresh graduates.