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Why college will always cost too much

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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College is too expensive. In a day and time where it seems like there are few things on which we can agree as a culture, you probably won’t find many people disputing that statement (and any who do probably haven’t seen a tuition bill recently). The problem, however, is that no one can seem to agree on how to fix it. Some think that the best solution is for the government to foot the bill so that a college education is free to those who want it. Others think schools need to do a better job of managing their finances and resources so that an education is more affordable. Still more people believe the solution lies in a more specialized instruction that will let students get in and out more quickly without bothering with all the subjects they’ll probably never need.

Each of those ideas holds some merit, but none of the solutions really make college less expensive. They just shift the cost in a different direction. Whether it’s taxpayers and businesses, “non-essential” personnel and programs, or those students who might want more than a purely functional degree, no one solution will appeal to everyone. As The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein describes, there’s a delicate balance in the way higher education is done today—one that tries to honor the past without getting stuck there—and it often seems that every suggestion on how it could be done better is seen by one group or another as a threat to their traditions.

In short, most recognize that a problem exists but don’t want to change their way of life to fix it. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, as it’s really just the human way. It’s not God’s way, though, and much of the sin in our lives is a direct result of us mistakenly believing that the responsibility for solving our problems belongs to someone else.

Have you ever noticed how when the Bible describes God’s plan for healing our pain and setting our lives back on the right track, that plan typically starts with us (2 Chronicles 7:14, 1 John 1:9, Acts 3:19, and James 4:8–10 to name a few)? Scripture never assumes that we are solely responsible for the problems we face, but it does assume that we are responsible for starting the process of making those problems right.

Whether the first step in that process is seeking God’s forgiveness or his guidance—which will often lead us back to some unresolved sin in our lives—the Lord has decided to leave the decision of whether or not to approach his throne to us. How we use that freedom will go a long way towards determining the degree to which we experience his blessing in this life.

So remember that, while circumstances, other people, and the mere fact that we live in an incredibly fallen world can all conspire to make our lives immeasurably difficult from time to time, Scripture tells us that our problems are never really someone else’s to solve. No matter what trials you may be facing today, God has a way forward, but that path begins at your feet. Step wisely.

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