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The son is home from college for the holiday break and he has walked into our new “Dave Ramsey” world. “Some things have changed around here, son,” we told him before he flew home.

None of this information is a surprise as we’ve had him go through the Foundations in Personal Finance Homeschool lessons, but even while he was learning these things, we kept saying that college loans might be necessary.

Our kids have known for a bit now that we failed to save for their college education. They’ve known they would need to work. What they didn’t know was that we would change how we felt about college loans and co-signing (which Dave says to never do).

A man lacking common sense gives a pledge
And becomes guarantor [for the debt of another] in the presence of his neighbor. ~ Proverbs 17:18 (AMP)

We’ve already talked to our younger kids about these things, but the son has been gone the past few months and unaware of the drastic changes in our thought processes.

After one semester of college, the money is about to run out sometime during next semester. We think we’ll be able to cover the shortage, but after that, there’s nothing. Fortunately he’s going to a fairly inexpensive school, but it is still more than we can afford for the duration.

The son has expected us to co-sign on the loan needed to continue, but the more we’ve thought about it, the more adamant we are that debt is not the answer.

Signing that paperwork would mean shackling our boy (and us) with thousands in debt for years to come. As we thought about the numbers and about what Dave teaches, we realized we would be hurting more than helping.

As I was praying over this, I realized I was only struggling with it because I felt guilty. We hadn’t been good stewards and our “poor kids” would have to “suffer” for our mistakes. Then I thought back to all the times we’ve made stupid money decisions out of guilt. Our credit card statements over the years can attest to many guilt purchases. I knew we had to break the cycle at some point.

It felt as though this loan was a crossroads of sorts. If we sign, we continue down the wide, well-trodden path littered with sacrificed dreams and futures. If we don’t sign, we make a dramatic shift in direction. The path will be narrow and feel stifling at times, but the reward has greater potential in the long-run.

Would we choose to “live like no one else” or not? Gulp. Would we stand up for our beliefs and guide our kids through this minefield? Or, would we follow the trail of debt-laden lemmings right over the cliff?

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
    have given your pledge for a stranger,
if you are snared in the words of your mouth,
    caught in the words of your mouth,
then do this, my son, and save yourself,
    for you have come into the hand of your neighbor:
    go, hasten,[a] and plead urgently with your neighbor.
Give your eyes no sleep
    and your eyelids no slumber;
save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
    like a bird from the hand of the fowler. ~ Proverbs 6:1-5 (ESV)

I went to the husband with these thoughts and some scripture. He agreed it was the right decision; although, neither of us liked the prospect of telling the son.

Last night he had a long talk with our boy and was surprised by how receptive and understanding he was. There is a work-study option at the school, but we won’t know for a bit if he gets into the program. If he does, his education will be covered, if not, we go back to the drawing board.

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. ~ Proverbs 22:7 (ESV)