Colleges denying federal aid for religious freedom hurts students

Sometimes the price for uninhibited Catholic teaching is the loss of federal funding needed to afford it, as one college recently joined the list of schools to deny federal student aid for religious reasons. 

As reported by the New York Times, Wyoming Catholic College rejected federal aid for its students in order to protect religious freedoms the college’s leaders believed were being threatened by the federal government. The logic is that by not accepting the student aid, the government cannot intervene in the college’s conservative ideas on birth control and same-sex marriage. 

Though students and parents at the college were OK with losing the predicted $650,000 in loans and $250,000 in Pell grants annually, according to the Times, this isn’t an isolated issue that can be so easily dismissed. 

Wyoming Catholic is actually following in the footsteps of other colleges. Virginia’s Christendom College and Michigan’s Hillsdale College, have also declined funding to avoid federal intrusion on curriculum. A North Carolina Catholic school, Belmont Abbey College, even calculated the financial loss of cutting student aid to avoid offering benefits to spouses of same-sex employees and having transgender restrooms. 

Granted, schools do have the right to choose to be independent from receiving financial aid. However, in addition to claiming a legal right to discriminate, another price of religious freedom is the risk of putting students into a financial bundle and possibly more years of student debt.

Wyoming College students have used private loans to pay for the $28,000 annual cost of tuition, according to the Times. The 80 percent of students who could have benefited from federal aid have to rely on private loans with higher rates. 

Clearly, the religious mores of the school are more important to its leaders than the country’s student debt crisis. Funding education with private loans also imposes great risk on students. 

For instance, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, private loans tend to be costlier than federal loans and do not offer as many consumer protections and repayment plans. They also carry interest rates as high as 13 percent, much higher than those for federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans for undergraduates, which is 4.66 percent for those disbursed last July. 

While the school is trying to strengthen its religious freedoms by avoiding issues such as premarital sex or gay rights, it is also limiting access to the school for potential students who need to rely on federal funding.  

Despite being close to reaching accreditation last year, the college’s school board denied it to avoid federal loan funding that would have covered a fifth of the college’s overall budget, as reported in the Times. Also mentioned in the article, accepting the loan programs could have created more wiggle room for the school to improve faculty salaries or expand the
campus. 

It seems denying federal aid to maintain the integrity of a school’s religious teachings only hurts students by either barring access to that education or by sacrificing their financial stability in order to have it. What’s worse is that these sacrifices should never be intentional on the college’s part. 

 

Isabelle Cavazos is a junior majoring in English and Spanish.

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