With less and less women entering the Catholic Church to serve as a nun, the church states that the numbers have decreased 72.5 percent since the 1960s, it seems odd that the church would refuse to let a woman enter the order due to an outstanding student loan, but that is exactly what has happened in New York. There are only about 60,000 active nuns in the United States.

CBS recently reported about 28-year-old Alida Taylor and her student loan woes. She had a rude awakening about her loan and her intended profession with the Catholic Church. Taylor attended the University of Louisiana where she had obtained a degree in fashion while using student loans for her tuition payments.

She then landed a dream job in the fashion field in New York City as a costume designer on Broadway. However, she always had a sense of a higher calling and wasn’t fulfilled in the job. She said, “When I moved to the city I had all these desires. I wanted to have a career, a family, and marriage, but your heart begins to shift.” So, she began to look to the church for a new job.

It’s A Debt Free Calling for the Catholics

When she began to consider the option of being a nun in the Catholic Church, she still had a student loan debt of $18,000.00. She never thought that the debt would prevent her from working where her heart wanted her to work. And while the Catholic Church has no blanket policy from the Vatican on not allowing those who have federal student loan debt to become nuns or monks, the particular order Alida Taylor approached does have a policy.

The Upper Westside Sisters of Life Convent told her in September of 2015, that in order for her to follow her heart, she must pay off her debt first. The profession does not pay, so she would still maintain the debt once she enters the order. The spokesperson of The Upper Westside Sisters of Life Convent, Sister Mariae Agnus Dei said, the order requires her to pay the debt off before she can join. “Religious life is a full-time job so to speak, so she wouldn’t be able to work and enter into religious life,” Sr. Mariae Agnus Dei said.

New Student Loan Debt Tally is Here

The Student Loan Problem Exists All Over

Taylor is not alone in her student loan debt. Americans currently owe over 1.3 trillion dollars in student loan debt distributed among over 43 million different loan holders. The average student who graduated from college or a university in the Class of 2016 has an average debt of $28,000. The student loan delinquency is at an astounding 11.6%.

Most people do not realize the far-reaching consequences of having student debts. Beyond not being able to become a nun, like Taylor, you could face a lawsuit, have negative impacts on your credit score, be denied a mortgage or apartment rental, or be denied a car loan or lease application. And if the job you are applying for is a government job, you can count that job out if you have a high loan balance, are tardy in loan payments, or have defaulted on paying your student loan.

Other Problems Resulting from Student Loan Debts and Defaults

There are other negatives to owing a large amount, being behind in payments or defaulting, as well. Forbes writer Bethy Hardeman in “3 Reason to Never Default on Your Federal Student Loan” explains that your pay could be garnished, you could be denied the perfect job, or you may not be protected by bankruptcy. She states, “Since the passing of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, no student loan—private or federal—can be discharged in bankruptcy. The only exception? The individual declaring bankruptcy must be able to prove that the debt repayment would cause “undue hardship,” which is extremely difficult to do except in the case of severe disability. “

Alida Taylor has set up a Go Fund page to assist her with paying off her loan and eliminating her loan problem. “That financial debt, having that be resolved allows her to freely enter into her vocation,” Sr. Mariae Agnus Dei of the Sisters of Life said. And yes, Alida Taylor still wants to follow her heart and join the church, but first, like many others with student loan obligations, she must pay off the loan balance first.