Seminaries act in face of financial woes
BR staff and agency writers
December 18, 2008

Seminaries act in face of financial woes

Seminaries act in face of financial woes
BR staff and agency writers
December 18, 2008

Southern Baptist seminaries are making steep cuts to deal with economic troubles.

The head of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is predicting layoffs and tuition increases to manage a $3 million budget shortfall. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, is working to cut its budget by approximately 10 percent, or $3.5 million to $4 million.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest implemented a hiring freeze and cut back on all unnecessary capital projects in October.

Southern president Al Mohler said in a Dec. 15 letter to the seminary community that cost-saving measures — including a hiring freeze on non-essential positions and reduced travel — have already trimmed the school’s budget by $1.7 million.

That leaves a projected $800,000 to $1.5 million in further reductions projected over the next several months. Mohler said that would likely mean a reduction in the seminary’s workforce and increasing tuition to boost revenue.

Southwestern is “making difficult decisions in an effort to protect the institution from future financial crisis,” according to a Dec. 16 news release from the seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Among reductions being made to the budget are “temporary suspension of many overseas travel programs and adjustments to campus facilities.”

Southwestern president Paige Patterson said in a press release, "The administration is doing the best it can to find ways to cut spending that do not involve the release of existing faculty or the students employed by the school." Patterson "went on to say that current economic trends would make this goal difficult to achieve," according to the news release.

The statement specifically identified two cutback areas.

Southwestern is suspending the work of its Naylor Children’s Center for at least 18 months. The center, which annually posts a deficit, according to the news release, is a laboratory school under the direction of the school of educational ministries that provides care and instruction for preschool age children from six weeks to age 5.

The seminary has also suspended its Oxford Study Program and all of the Traveling Scholar overseas on-site study trips with the exception of those directly related to the 2+2 missionary training program in the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions.

At Southern, Mohler pledged “to do our very best to limit tuition increases” as a way to keep theological education affordable to as many ministers as possible.

Mohler attributed the shortfall to significant losses in the value of the seminary’s endowed funds. He also said the school projects annual gift levels this year to be lower than usual and has been advised by denominational leaders to expect economic forces to eventually show up in reduced giving through the SBC.

Prior to the shortfall, Southern Seminary’s 2008-2009 budget was $36.95 million.

Southeastern spokesman Jason Hall said the school decided to not print the winter issue of its magazine, which is now only available on the Internet. The seminary also has cut back on how it prepares apartments after they are vacated.

The school has no immediate plans for layoffs.

Southeastern is also preparing for a potential drop in Cooperative Program funding.

“We’re trying to plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Hall said.

Financial health package

Across three issues of the Biblical Recorder and numerous postings online, the BR staff compiled stories dealing with financial health, budgeting, teaching children about money, stewardship issues, etc. For a complete list, click here.