Seminary Infographics

by Dave Miller on May 13, 2014 · 53 comments

Here is a set of infographics related to the seminary discussion that both William and Bart have posted on today, in case anyone is interested.

1 William Thornton May 13, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Dave Miller is a huge troublemaker…putting all these stats up for folks to see.

A secondary question to the ones discussed elsewhere is why the drop in MDiv students at SWBTS and to a lesser extent NOBTS. The MDiv is the barometer of future pastors. Why are MDiv students choosing in significant numbers to attend SBTS and SEBTS rather than SWBTS and NOBTS?

I’d speculate that the answer is Calvinism.

2 Dave Miller May 13, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Thank you for noticing, my friend.

3 Doug Hibbard May 13, 2014 at 9:36 pm

And it looks like you had to make pretty graphs of it, too.

4 D. L. Payton May 13, 2014 at 8:31 pm

William T

Certainly I suspect Calvinism is involved. What about writing professors, scholars etc. i.e. wanting to study with a particular professor? Is that on the radar to any degree?

5 Tarheel May 13, 2014 at 9:24 pm

SWBTS has been on a steep, steep decline since 2003 according the MDiv student numbers posted above.

All others are showing increases except Golden Gate….and well it is in Cali – there’s just not a lot of southern baptists out there…with SBTS and SEBTS leading the at big time.

I don’t know why or what it means – but facts are facts.

6 Dave Miller May 13, 2014 at 9:37 pm

“Steep, steep decline” might be a rad hyperbolic. It is a significant and troubling decline.

7 Tarheel May 13, 2014 at 9:49 pm

An almost 30% decline is pretty steep.

Look at the lines. The others ebb and flow….SWBTS has done nothing but go down.

No hyperbole intended.

8 Tarheel May 13, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Well almost 25%…..

Even GGBTS which has a greater decline percentage (with much smaller enrollment numbers, so im not sure its fair to compare) has stayed pretty much even for many of the years since 03….

SWBTS is on a steady decline. I’m not implying anything about that – just saying its the reality of the situation. Of the “big four” it’s steeply decreasing – while the others are thriving and growing.

9 Dale Pugh May 14, 2014 at 7:33 am

Yeah, any business that had a 30% decline in business over the past decade would be scrambling to regroup. Especially when it sees similar businesses getting the market share. Someone will argue that a seminary isn’t a business, but I disagree. It’s in the business of educating future leaders, and SWBTS (which I’ve attended) is losing (has lost?) its position as top dog. 30% is steep.

10 Jason Holland May 13, 2014 at 8:23 pm

As a current full-time student at SWBTS, I can speak to one of the factors that led to a degree program change. I am 30 years old and have been on campus for two years. I have a wife and two daughters. I have two jobs one on campus and one as a part-time youth pastor. The M.Div is a great degree program, however I cannot support a family for four or five years working two essentially minimum wage jobs. If I get a full time job, how can I be expected to take a full load of classes let alone be a husband and father? The issue for me is not theological, but practical. Under different circumstances an M.Div would be ideal. However, for a person with a family, and who doesn’t want to spend the better part of a decade on campus, an alternative may be best.

11 Dave Miller May 13, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Thank you, Jason.

12 William Thornton May 13, 2014 at 9:39 pm

So what degree are you pursuing?

13 Jason Holland May 13, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Master of Theological Studies with emphasis on Cross-Cultural Missions. I am on pace to graduate next May and will actually have about 20 hours of additional classes that are not required for my degree (including language). I do eventually intend to finish my M.Div, but it will be a few years and may be finished online.

14 John Wylie May 13, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Jason,

The reason why I never finished my are the same as what you are going through now. Thankfully because I had my CDL I didn’t have to work for minimum wage, but nonetheless I worked all the time. The biggest regret of my life is that I did not get my degree. If I were you I would seriously consider taking a pastorate and finishing through an online program. I would also consider getting an MA instead of a MDiv.

15 John Cornish May 14, 2014 at 8:21 am

I think one of the deathblows to students like Jason was when the current administration at SWBTS closed down the child care center back in 2006 or2007, effectively removing any possibility of women with small children being able to work outside the home. This forced all students to face what Jason is facing, and from personal experience, this is more than daunting.

My personal opinion is that a combination of the administration’s 1950s mindset about life and church practice, in combination with its vocally antagonistic stance against reformed theology, is slowly killing the school. I personally had to struggle with whether or not to remain a Southern Baptist after I finished my six years and two degrees there. Fortunately, I generally found Southern Baptists off of Seminary Hill to be very different than the ones on it.

16 Jason Holland May 14, 2014 at 12:40 pm

John,

I am not sure when you were here, but the children’s center is now open two days a week during the school year and hosts camps of various kind during the summer. I have not found the administration to be antagonistic toward those who hold to reformed theology. There are known differences of opinion, however I have never heard a member of the faculty or administration say that Calvinists were unwelcome. Maybe there is an unspoken animosity, but it has not been manifested in any way that I have observed in my two years.

JH

17 John Cornish May 14, 2014 at 5:13 pm

I was there from 2006-2012. The children’s center used to be a full time operation providing childcare for families in which the spouses needed to work. Two days seems hardly adequate to meet this need, which fits the administration’s well-known ideology that women should not be working outside the home.

I personally heard the president of SWBTS make several negative (sarcastic) comments about reformed theology, and rarely (if ever) was a reformed pastor allowed to guest-speak from the chapel pulpit.

18 Nate May 14, 2014 at 12:52 pm

“If I get a full time job, how can I be expected to take a full load of classes let alone be a husband and father?”

Jason, I want to encourage you. It can be done. I did my M.Div in 3 years working a full-time job with a wife and 3 children. I was blessed to be a consultant in the IT industry and able to come and go from the place I was consulting to take classes during the day or to leave early to take afternoon and evening classes.

I also served in a church (youth ministry) and filled pulpits on Sundays (when available). I took 12 hours a semester and did not take J terms or Summer classes (until my last year). My wife and I worked it out each 13 week semester (the last month of each semester was grueling) but we then chilled over winter break and summer break to re-group, re-charge, and re-focus.

Keep at it. You can do it. You may lose some sleep, but the Lord will see you through. I think that stretching the program out past 4 years actually can be a detriment because you can’t see the finish line and become discouraged.

Best wishes..

19 volfan007 May 14, 2014 at 1:29 pm

Jason,

I know your pain, Brother. I was there, back in the day. I was taking a full load at Mid America in Memphis. I worked at Fed Ex at night…came home and slept 3 hours….got up and went to school til noon or later….went home from school and slept another couple of hours…then, got up and either did homework, or worked at my other part time job…being an Assistant to the Pastor at a large church in Memphis. Also, I was the H’mong Pastor at this Church….I preached for the H’mong people on Sunday mornings. My wife also had 2 children while we were at Seminary. I graduated with an MDiv after 4 years….and, I was completely worn out! But, I made it through it, with God’s help.

I understand your concerns about being a good husband and father with all your school and work responsibilites. That always concerned me, as well. But, the Lord blessed, and we did just fine. So, it can be done. It’s hard, but it can be done. But, everyone has to decide what they need to do….what’s best for them and their families. I just know that being on campus, rather than getting a degree online, or just going on Monday’s, or something, was a blessing to me. Hearing the hearts of the Profs. Eating lunch with Profs, and with fellow students. Attending chapel. Talking before and after class with other students. Classroom questions and answers. All of these things were very beneficial to my life.

God bless you, Jason.

David

20 Allen Calkins May 13, 2014 at 9:42 pm

I do not believe the decline at SWBTS is due to Calvinism as much as the decline in liberalism and liberal professors at Southern, Southeastern and Midwestern.

21 John Wylie May 13, 2014 at 9:43 pm

Good point

22 Dave Miller May 13, 2014 at 9:47 pm

I think that is an interesting theory, likely with merit. Conservatives tended to avoid Southern and Southeastern like the plague. Midwestern too, likely. So when all 6 seminaries became conservative, SWBTS probably lost some market share.

23 Tarheel May 13, 2014 at 9:55 pm

That sounds reasonable….TX is a long way from NC, SC, VA, GA and TN.

SEBTS and SBTS are geographically more convenient to a large Swath of Southern Baptists and since liberalism is no longer a factor….

24 Rick Patrick May 13, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Totally agree, friends. It’s not the addition of Calvinism but the subtraction of Liberalism that has resulted in the other seminaries being equally acceptable to Southwestern today, meaning there is no need for students in the Deep South and East to move to Fort Worth.

Ironically, an enormous amount of the credit, humanly speaking, for this denomination-wide conservative shift helping these other seminaries equal and even surpass the attendance at Southwestern must be laid at the feet of none other than Dr. Paige Patterson.

25 D. L. Payton May 13, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Allen

A very valid point. As I mentioned in another thread I attended SWBTS pre CR. Both Southern and Midwestern were closer to my home n St. Louis, but i wanted a more conservative school so i went to SWBTS. If I were starting today I would not bypass Midwestern in all probability.

26 William Thornton May 14, 2014 at 5:55 am

Did those three seminaries still have such faculty in 2003?

27 Doug Hibbard May 14, 2014 at 10:14 am

No, but consider how slow change comes–and how students choose seminaries. Especially in the rising Internet days, back when most of us were on dial-up and using Compuserv, we went with either the recommendation of our pastor or the influence of our favorite authors. If you went to a Baptist college, then perhaps the faculty there influenced our choice.

So, if you were going into the ministry in 2003 having grown up in a church with a pastor who chose SWBTS in 1980 because SBTS was liberal, then you were going to be influenced by that choice. Even though the facts had become different, the reputations took time to change, and legacy still mattered. Your favorite pastor went to NOBTS? You went there.

Now, it’s far easier for potential students to gather information, and see the possibilities. Direct marketing over word-of-mouth and reputation marketing accounts for some of this.

28 John Roland May 13, 2014 at 10:27 pm

I am a SWBTS MDiv grad from 2001. Loved my experience and would not trade it for anything.

Why the decline? I would argue Liberty University is really biting into the SBC seminary market due to their aggressive online recruitment. If you get a chance, check out this eye opening 2013 article from the Washington Post about their exponential growth.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/virginias-liberty-transforms-into-evangelical-mega-university/2013/03/04/931cb116-7d09-11e2-9a75-dab0201670da_story.html

29 Dave Miller May 13, 2014 at 11:45 pm

John, that theory has a lot of merit.

I would guess that students who choose online studies at Liberty would be disproportionately likely to go to SWBTS than either SBTS or SEBTS.

No way to prove that, I suppose, but it seems like a very good theory.

30 Thomas Magers II May 14, 2014 at 12:40 pm

NOBTS recently approved a completely online MDiv degree. The seminary used to require at least 30 hours on campus, but as of a month ago by vote of the trustees they don’t. You can get the whole degree from your house. I imagine this occurred because of Liberty University’s online program.

31 Dave Miller May 13, 2014 at 11:50 pm

Allen and John have really given interesting theories here. Conservatives (in the old days) would have tended to choose NOBTS or SWBTS, and most chose SWBTS. Post CR, there was no need to travel to Texas from VA or NC.

Of course, many do attend SBTS now because of its soteriology (and some stay away, too) but the decline of the post CR years could be traced to that.

And, for students who are more likely to attend SWBTS, Liberty’s alternative is a reality – both the VA campus and LU Online.

Those theories make a lot of sense to me.

Of course, I’ve not been on the campus for decades, so I don’t really know what is going on.

32 Dave Miller May 13, 2014 at 11:52 pm

And I’ve not seen anyone mention the astounding fact – SEBTS is growing rapidly.

33 Nate May 14, 2014 at 12:55 pm

I think you can give Danny Akin a lot of credit for that. And, the logistics of where folks live as well.

34 William Thornton May 14, 2014 at 6:08 am

The seminaries consume 22.16% of every CP dollar that the Executive Committee receives. So, how long will we continue to fund six freestanding institutions, each with separate administrative structures and leadership, physical plant in a time when distance means little or nothing due to online study, satellite locations, and the like?

Because of the power of the various constituencies each of the institutions have, probably until Jesus comes and beyond.

Add to the six all of the state Baptist colleges that offer similar degrees, the non-CP supported schools that SBCers find acceptable and you have an extremely expensive and inefficient system of theological education.

I suspect that we will begin to see more and more churches choose to designate (or negatively designate) among the seminaries. It’s hard for me to see critics of Calvinist influences and drivers in SBC life (people like Rick Patrick, for example) feeling comfortable about continuing to support SBTS.

35 Tarheel May 14, 2014 at 6:35 am

“I suspect that we will begin to see more and more churches choose to designate (or negatively designate) among the seminaries. It’s hard for me to see critics of Calvinist influences and drivers in SBC life (people like Rick Patrick, for example) feeling comfortable about continuing to support SBTS.”

That’d be extremely sad.

As for me I gladly support the funding of all six of our seminaries so long as each remains economically sustainable, theologically conservative, biblically faithful, gospel centered missionary and pastor training centers.

Our church would not consider designating our regular CP contributions (currently 10% of all undesignated offerings). LMCO and AAEO are safe from redirection as well….we might consider special offerings for one of the mission boards or omething like that….but for a seminary…I don’t see tat happening, but I guess it could. It’d be over and above CP though not in place of it.

36 Teman May 14, 2014 at 9:53 am

FTE’s do not tell the whole story however. Notice that NOBTS has increase in graduates while their FTE’s have made basically the same. The FTE formula has always favored Southern and their emphasis on on Campus students while half of NOBTS students are at one of their extension centers. The FTE formula really needs to be redone to show value for equipping ministers whereever they are beiing trained.

37 Dave Miller May 14, 2014 at 10:10 am

Is the formula available, and in English?

38 Doug Hibbard May 14, 2014 at 10:16 am

I think the answer to that is….no.

It may be available, but I’ve never seen it in English. It’s in Bureaucratic Accountantese.

39 Jim G. May 14, 2014 at 11:28 am

FTEs are pretty easy to calculate. Take the total number of credit hours taken by all students in a given semester and divide by the minimum full-time threshold (usually 12 for undergrads, but it may be 9 for grads) and that is the FTE count.

For example, if (making up numbers) SBTS has 1000 students taking a grand total of 6000 credit hours in a given semester, the FTE count is 6000 divided by 12, or 500.

Jim G.

40 Dave Miller May 14, 2014 at 12:13 pm

Do undergraduate degrees count or just grad programs?

41 William Thornton May 14, 2014 at 12:26 pm

I don’t think that is the FTE formula that counts for the CP. Like Dave, I would like to know.

42 Doug Hibbard May 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm

I’ve got this, so far, but haven’t made heads and tails of it yet: http://www.sbc.net/cp/ministryreports/pdf/presidents/presidents-seminary-formula.pdf

43 Doug Hibbard May 14, 2014 at 12:35 pm

This also seems relevant, especially the end section referring to undergraduate, basic, and advanced degrees: http://www.baptist2baptist.net/printfriendly.asp?ID=294

44 William Thornton May 14, 2014 at 1:12 pm

These are interesting links. The second discusses at length the issue of funding other than basic and advanced ministry degrees, i.e. baccalaureate. This is an area do considerable conflict between the seminaries and state conventions. I don’t know how it stands today other than my state conv. CEO says it’s a very big problem.

The CP is a shrinking pool of money. It stands to reason that there will be more conflict over allocations.

45 Dean Stewart May 14, 2014 at 3:31 pm

Dave, William and all,
I am working from my memory so I will have to speak in general terms. I am going to look over some of my trustee material and see if I can get more specific information on the FTE formula.
Here is an oversimplification of the process and formula. The executive committee budget gives a certain percentage to seminary education. That percentage is divided equally to the six seminaries based on the number of certain graduate students. The money is awarded on a scale for: 1) doctoral students, 2) On-campus masters students, 3) extension center masters students. Extension center students merit less money than on-campus master level students and online students merit no money from the SBC. Some have questioned if online students are counted in the FTE formula but unless that has changed in the extreme recent past that is not the case. Using the SBC FTE formula a seminary could graduate 225 students with master degrees this year and only 150 of them be listed in the SBC FTE. The reason being the other 75 were online students and the seminary would not be awarded money for an online student. Drs. Mohler and Patterson have not embraced changing the FTE formula because the percentage from the executive committee will not increase to cover online students. The amount awarded for on-campus master level students will decrease to create enough money to cover online students. Southern and Southwestern have the most on-campus master level students and receive the most money from our convention. Logically they will oppose a change in the formula until they have enough online students to cover any loss of revenue they may experience due to funding being cut for on-campus master level students. I have not personally spoken with Drs. Kelley, Iorg, Allen or Akin but my understanding is they would embrace exploring a change to the FTE formula to award more more money for extension center master level students and some money for online master level students. While Southern and Southwestern have excelled at having traditional students on the campus, Golden Gate and New Orleans have excelled at having thriving extension centers. A change in the funding would reward their efforts along with each seminary’s efforts in online education. If I find the information I know I have somewhere I will pass it to you in an email.

46 William Thornton May 14, 2014 at 6:59 pm

Very helpful. Thanks Dean.

47 Doug Hibbard May 14, 2014 at 10:09 am

An additional consideration on the student to graduate ratio, as well as the attendance in general that comes from the online boom is this:

How many students are getting 1/2 to 2/3 of a degree on campus, then facing a life obstacle that drives them to finish off-campus? For example, I did the first third of my M.Div. on-campus at MABTS (almost a non-CP-funded Southern Baptist Seminary, practically speaking). Then, life events, family needs, and job changes put me in a place where I couldn’t finish my degree in residence. I got to half-done with MABTS, but then my choice was to finish through a distance program or go about with a partial degree. So, I end up with a degree from outside the Southern Baptist loop at all.

I don’t know how one would find that kind of number, but I wonder how many students find themselves in similar situations from our schools these days. Especially with more distance options connected to our own seminaries, there’s probably an uptick in folks who do a year or two and then take a job, especially a ministry position, with the good intentions of finishing up wherever they are. Then, they don’t finish because distance crowds out thinking about it.

My point is this: it may be that this is evidence of shifting models and a need to revisit the traditional seminary model than it is an indication of a problem at any seminary. Are there other ways that we can connect ministers in need of training (which is basically all of us, even those who have degrees, but especially those with no training at all) with our seminaries? At the time I was searching for a distance program, none of the Southern Baptist Six allowed distance learning for enough of the program for it to work in my situation. I could either transfer the half-degree I had, or re-earn that half through distance, but there was no way to complete it. SWBTS and NOBTS (at the time, according to the Admissions departments) required me to find a way to be on-campus for more weeks than I could be away from the church. I know this has changed, and that is was related to ATS and their rules, but those requirements probably hurt some of the graduate numbers in the past decade.

Now that ATS, and following ATS, the seminaries, have shifted policies and degrees related to distance students, I think we’ll see an upswing in enrollment. I’m not the only one who would have preferred a degree from one of the Southern Baptist seminaries (or MABTS) but chose from what was attainable. Expanding the access will help.

48 dr. james willingham May 14, 2014 at 1:49 pm

You all should have attended SEBTS, when it was noted as being, “The Most Liberal Seminary in the Southern Baptist Convention.” Talk about interesting, stimulating, and full of traps for the unwary student who was loosely attached to biblical inspiration. The Baccalaureate speaker for my M.Div., actually complained about some lady coming up to him at the SBC and saying the seminary was such. I have no doubt that he was bothered, because he had a fine engineering student enrolled there who went the Moderate (or Liberal, so-called) route after the clinical training at a hospital by the CPE boys got hold of him. It was a grief to see the young man change. He went on to larger churches and places of service, while those who did not go along to get along found themselves suffering from opposition and hindrances by the Moderates that had been placed in positions of responsibility (DOM, Ministerial Placement Director, etc.). One of my friends had the Director of Ministerial Placement at the state convention set with his feet upon the desk between them…almost in the face of my friend who had been raised an Orthodox Jew and had a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from St. John’s College. Another friend who was a Moderate had the same director of placement laugh at him, after he had committed a faux pas in that camp, and say, “I don’t have to help you. You did it to yourself.” Nice people.

As to why enrollment is declining, permit me to say in defense of SEBTS, though I do not agree with much that the head of that institution has done and said, that they face the problem of Divinity Schools started by the Moderates who control the main state convention. There is also the problem of declining prosperity due to the lack of jobs, job security, and poor pay. Some wrote a book in the 20s which Milton Friedman has republished bearing the title, “The Road to Serfdom.” Since there are no jobs and are going to be no jobs, the end result is slavery and tyranny. Friedman in an interview on C-Span pointed out that socialism leads to tyranny. One of the basic tenets of that bit of stupidity is that none of us know enough to take care of our own affairs (especially have they, the Socialists, get done with messing things up so one cannot). What this all amounts to is a denial of rugged American Individualism, the idea that the common man can direct his own affairs. In addition to socialism, we have Corporate Monopolies which, in conjunction with the Federal Reserve, basically destroyed our economy and society. I predict that even the enrollment at SEBTS and SBTS will decline also, due to the lack of financial wherewithal. We are possibly looking at the last generation of trained ministers, the last generation of a decent social life of the multitudes. For about a century we have been subjected to the manipulations of a Marxian dialectic designed to bring us to a “what is the use attitude.” Either Democrat or Republican will prove to be a disappointment unless our people began to turn out en masse. They and we must attend every meeting of the party we choose, staying on top of every decision made, fully politicized. And eventually, we might well face extermination as the folks who own and control socialism want to ensure their security and we care considered to be, as H.G. Wells called us, “Useless Eaters.” Sad, cause we are seeing the possibility of new energy developments that might well provide us all with energy independent of the grids of control, enable us to travel at speeds unimaginably in and out of the atmosphere of this planet, and spread our children’s children throughout the starry heavens. O, and by the way, Bella Dodd, former chairman of the Communist Party back in the second quarter of the 20th century, said she came to believe that Communism was invented by the capitalists to control the poor, especially after Moscow ordered her to take her orders during World War II from one of three capitalists living in the Waldorf Astoria.

49 dr. james willingham May 14, 2014 at 1:52 pm

The reference above was to SWBTS – not SEBTS in the second paragraph.

50 Dan Crumley May 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Asa recent MDiV. graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, I think it is the leading cause of decline for some of the SBC seminaries. I took my classes through a combination of online and on campus. The seminary is very conservative, but amazingly the student population is diversified in theology. I preferred it over the traditional SBC seminaries (which I visited) simply because the exchange with other students caused you to really examine your positions. Although it is more expensive, the vast among of scholarships offered allowed me to earn my MDiV for $250 a month, plus books.

51 Jason G. May 14, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Are the seminaries no longer funneling future ministers to the MDiv?

When I worked in the admissions office for one of our seminaries, there was an expectation that everyone would do MDiv and if someone opted to do a MA they had to sign a form saying they were not pursuing full-time ministerial service. I am sure people lied and signed that form, but if there is no longer a drive to get students into MDiv programs but allowing them to opt down into MAs, then that might shed some interesting light on these numbers.

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