Undergraduate debt heavy burden for students entering seminary

Students Bryce Blank, Thanael Certa-Werner and Dylan Dethlefsen share their thoughts and concerns about student debt.
Students Bryce Blank, Thanael Certa-Werner and Dylan Dethlefsen share their thoughts and concerns about student debt.

Bryce Blank, Thanael Certa-Werner, and Dylan Dethlefsen are headed to seminary this fall. Blank is headed to Perkins School of Theology in Texas. Certa-Werner will attend Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Illinois, and Dethlefsen is headed to Boston School of Theology. Undergraduate debt and scholarships played a significant role when deciding when to go to seminary and what seminary to attend.

“A big concern was the financials of it all and feeling anxiety over possibly accumulating up to, or over $100k in student loan debt,” says Dethlefsen. "It’s definitely a huge concern still, but one that I’m pushing aside in order to pursue my calling. I know I’m definitely not alone in this boat.”

Dylan spent the last year working, delaying entering seminary. He felt that he needed to get some income and figure out how to manage his financial future after accumulating debt as an undergraduate. 

 “When it came to my undergraduate debt I viewed it as a necessary evil. I knew I needed to get my degree in order to pursue my life and career goals. I just went and did it without any second thought,” he says.

Thanael Certa-Werner has seen a lot of friends stressed out about debt. He reports that some of them are actually delaying graduate school because they worry about having too many loans. Certa-Werner will leave his undergraduate years without debt due to a lot of effort and careful planning.

“I am headed to Garrett-Evangelical Seminary in the fall. I will leave Dakota Wesleyan University without debt. I worked five part-time jobs. I applied for lots of scholarships, and was able to get a lot of help from the United Methodist Church. Not everyone is as lucky as I am. But it is going to make a huge difference as I enter seminary,” says Thanael.

Bryce Blank acquired $30,000 of debt during his undergraduate years at DWU. He is hoping to pay off his loans from school in 10-20 years, paying $300 a month.

“I am headed to Perkins in the fall. My decision to go there was partly based on the financial support that I will receive. I wanted to make sure that I could manage my debt,” Bryce says.

Blank worked a lot of part-time and summer jobs to help pay for school. He was a resident assistant and an Elisha intern at Dakota Wesleyan University. Bryce worked summers in a jewelry store, as a camp counselor, at his home church as an intern, and at Love, Inc. in Rapid City. This summer he worked at Lake Poinsett as a chaplin.

Blank describes the whole situation this way. “Scholarships make it easier and are a huge factor for me, and a lot of others, about where you go to school and my decision about seminary.”

The 2019 Miracle Offering Lead Boldy #fillthegap, will help provide scholarships for undergraduates who are feeling a call to ministry. All three students, Blank, Certa-Werner, and Dethlefsen, state that having scholarships for undergraduate students feeling called to ministry would be a huge blessing and help lift a burden.

excerpt of a story by Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Ministerial Education Fund is at the heart of preparing people for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The 13 United Methodist seminaries help students to discover their calling through the challenging curriculum. The fund enables the church to increase financial support for recruiting and educating ordained and diaconal ministers and to equip annual conferences to meet increased demands. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Ministerial Education Fund apportionment at 100 percent.