Student Loans and Monastic Vocation

edited December 1969 in Personal Issues
I am an American Copt who is seriously considering becoming a monk. Unfotunately, because of radical changes in the American economy while I was in college, my student loans ended up being a lot bigger than I was expecting and it looks like it will take a very long time to pay them back. At which point, I may be too old to qualify for admission to many communities.

So my question is: Does having student loans preclude a person from becoming a monk?

Please understand: I am not trying to become a monk to escape debt. I have a successful career and can pay it back if I want to, but it will take a long while. I wanted to be a monk since before college but I wanted to keep options open and didn't expect to come out with so much debt.

Also, the loans are all with US govt and there are some laws/programs which exempt a person from paying it back if he does not make enough money. Does that make a difference?

I am hoping to become a monk outside of USA (probably Egypt or Israel). Does that make a difference?


  • If you don't mind me asking, how long would it take to pay back your loans?
  • In the UK you don't pay back till you earn over £21k a year, and if you go abroad you send annual details of your income. After a number of years (20 I think) the outstanding amount is written off.

    Of course I don't know what the US situation is, but you mentioned there were some schemes that sounded similar.
  • Thank you for your quick replies. At my current rate, it would take approximately 20 years to pay off the debt. If the economy goes up, it could be quicker, but it seems that the US economy is going down.

    President Obama made a rule similar to the one you mentioned, Father. Hence, if I have no income, I am not legally obliged to pay anything. But I am not sure what the monks would say about that. What do you think?
  • Perhaps you should speaking directly to an abbot about this.
  • I think id say that various life outcomes are already factored into the costs. Some women will marry and never pay back the loan because they are raising a family. The vocation of a monastic is also necessary to the nation, even if not appreciated. A monk offers his whole life for the salvation of the world, which is probably of more value than ths small number of loans that will not be repaid because of it.

    I dont think it counts as a loan in the same way as of you had bought a house and walked away from paying for it. It is just the way that some states now fund higher education. Non repayment is expected for an already estimated number of students.
  • After speaking to the abbot, you'll need to speak to a lawyer or a financial adviser from FAFSA. It is my understanding that the only way out of student loans is death (with a death certificate). Even declaring Chapter 9 or Chapter 11 bankruptcy does not absolve you from paying back student loans. Private loans, yes, not student FAFSA loans. However, I could be wrong. That is why you should speak to a CPA, lawyer or financial adviser.

    Non-payment of federal loans is probably the number one way to permanently damage your credit in the United States. This is why so many non-profit agencies spend a lot of time educating parents and students about financial loans before they sign the dotted line.

    Finally, I will say that if you are truly called to the monastic life, God will find a way for you to pay off the loans quicker than you think or He will find a way for you to become a monk without disqualifying you because of age. Trust in the Lord.
  • For the student loans you have from the US government, you may qualify for the Public Loan Forgiveness Program. 

    Under this program if you have a qualifying job after 120 payments the remainder of your loans will be dismissed.  I am not sure how it works if your "job" does not include a salary.  However, qualified employment does include working for "a non-profit organization that has been designated as tax-exempt by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC)."

    You can find more information about this here:

    May God bless you on your journey,


  • God bless you and stay strong!  I am in the same boat as you, although it may take me quite a bit less time to pay off my debt.  Still, though, it IS tough!

    I am also reminded of something Pope Shenouda once said to Fr. Lazarus Saint Anthony:  "If you have the peace and love of Christ in your heart, you can be at peace anywhere."  True, the peace that comes with the monastic life is greater than that in the world.  However, outside circumstances don't matter as much as long as you have the desire in your heart to live a life focused on God.
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