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Seminaries Struggling in Current Economic Climate

Seminaries Struggling in Current Economic Climate

I missed this when it was released a few weeks ago but Inside Higher Ed has an article profiling Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Luther Seminary is the largest Lutheran seminary in the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States and yet they're in serious financial difficulty.  After weathering much of the economic downturn, they faced an enrollment drop in the fall and a mounting debt.  As a result, the seminary president resigned in December, about 15% of the staff (18 of 125) have just been laid off, 8 faculty (out of 44) are voluntarily leaving, a master's degree has been shuttered, and the Ph.D. program has put a three-year hold on admissions.

The article paints a bleak picture not only for Luther but for seminaries in general:

"Enrollments are falling. Costs have increased, while student debt has become a bigger concern. Many Christian denominations, seeing their own ranks shrink, are providing less financial support than in the past. And as Americans as a whole become less religious -- almost one-fifth of adults now have no religious affiliation -- seminaries face an uncertain future."

In the past five years the The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada has grown but overall seminary enrollment has been on the decline since 2005.  Seminary endowments, like those of other institutions, also took a major financial hit in the 2008 financial crisis which makes enrollment drops and other economic pressures more difficult to weather.

The article entitled "The Struggling Seminaries" is a sobering read but one worth reviewing, particularly for those of us interested in the future of seminary education.  Additionally, the "e-lert" from interim president Richard J. Foss entitled "May God Be With Us" provides an blunt assessment of the situation facing Luther Seminary but also reminds readers of the hope found in Christ Jesus as outlined in Romans 8.

Photo credit: kern.justin / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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