According to recent research by the The Center for the Study of Theological Education at Auburn Seminary, seminary graduates face suffocating debt.
Many students graduating in 2011 with a master’s of divinity degree exited with a debt load of more than $40,000, and around 5% had debts totaling more than $80,000. To survive, the graduates or their spouses took second or even third jobs.
Church leaders in many denominations are seeking ways to limit the debt students incur. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) announced grants to offset the mounting costs:
“The Lilly Endowment Inc. announced in December that it awarded more than $12.3 million for 51 theological schools to ‘examine and strengthen their financial and educational practices to improve the economic well-being of future ministerial leaders.’
“The grants will allow the schools among other activities to examine new models for financing theological education, explore ways to reduce the number of hours required for degrees, broaden sources of scholarships and financial aid and create programs to improve the financial literacy of students.”
Some seminaries have also tested educational models that could help reduce tuition. These include more online courses, financial counseling for students, more paid internships, and fewer required hours.