“Managing Educational Debt,” a free webinar hosted by the Company of New Pastors (CNP), will be offered on June 18 at 2:00 pm EDT. The presenter will be Laura Bryan, associate for Financial Aid for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

“Not all of the news about student loans is bad news,” says Bryan, who has been managing the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s student loan program since 2000. “The good news is that there are more repayment options than ever before.” 

In 2014, the Office of Financial Aid for Service—supported by gifts to the church for education—engaged 500 students exploring what it means to be called by God to a life of faith and service. The office also distributed $1.2 million to hundreds of students while expanding a debt assistance program for pastors to reach more church members engaged in mission service. Seeking a deeper connection between the church and its related colleges and universities, the office launched a Bible Grant initiative to explore Presbyterian identity through grace and gratitude. 

Bryan’s June 18 webinar is the fourth in an ongoing series of new, interactive, educational events sponsored by the Company of New Pastors as part of its ongoing expansion plans.  

Company of New Pastors—a transition-into-ministry program for seminary students and first-call pastors—started to broaden its reach and availability last fall by launching programs on pastoral formation open to the whole church. 

“As seminary graduations wind down, and a new group of seminarians is preparing to begin their studies this fall, information on managing educational debt couldn’t come at a better time,” says Rev. Karen Russell, who coordinates the CNP program. “Because we hear so many stories about the burden of educational debt on new pastors, we are eager to provide practical information to help with that burden. I would encourage every person who has student loans to make plans to join us for this webinar.” 

In her webinar, Bryan will navigate the many student loan repayment options available by:

  • highlighting available online resources;
  • addressing where to get help if a loan servicer does not appear to be behaving ethically; and
  • providing an overview of loan forgiveness programs and repayment assistance. 

Bryan’s 25-minute presentation will conclude with a 20-minute Q&A time. The event is open to all, and registration is quick and easy. 

“While the Company of New Pastors sponsors this webinar series primarily to provide information to our participants and mentors, I’m especially excited about our June 18 webinar, as it will offer timely, useful information to a wide range of people across the whole denomination,” Russell says. “And Laura’s knowledge and experience—along with her winsome way of presenting information—should make this webinar invaluable to all who participate.”

Based on the most recent portfolio reports from the U.S. Department of Education, about 39 percent of borrowers in repayment are using repayment plans that are based on the borrower’s income, and 26 percent of Direct Loan borrowers are more than 90 days past due. 

“What do those two statistics tell us?” Bryan asks. “Four in ten borrowers are not earning enough to meet the minimum monthly payment for their loan; these borrowers have taken action and moved into a repayment plan based on income. They have protected their credit and may enjoy limited relief from the accrual of interest. Two out of every ten borrowers are not making payments. There could be many reasons for that, but if it is because those borrowers are ignoring their student loan until they are earning enough to make payments, there is a less stressful way forward.”