Officials at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary are trying to help their students through the economic crunch.
A recent survey of the students showed “up to a quarter of our current students are considering taking fewer classes in the spring,” said Jason Hall, director of communications.
“The other thing we found is that many applicants for the spring might consider delaying starting because of their inability to sell houses, find employment, etc.”
Hall said Southeastern is trying to encourage prospective students to think about alternatives if they are not able to start on campus in the spring.
“We’re working with them to consider starting online while still not having the burden of moving,” Hall said.
Extension centers are another option. Southeastern holds classes in Charlotte and Asheville as well as Anderson, S.C., Charleston, S.C., Richmond, Va., and Tampa, Fla.
Southeastern has already made some changes to help its economic outlook.
According to Skip Midkiff, director of financial aid and student employment services, the downturn in the economy has not resulted in a greater number of scholarship applications.
“We have had a 25 to 50 percent increase in the number of requests for emergency grants,” he said.
Hall admits seminary students, in general, “are not well off to begin with.”
One of the shining lights in this economic shift has been funding from the Charles B. Keesee Educational Fund Inc., as well as other scholarship money available to students.
“They are a real blessing to our students,” Hall said. “Every dollar is important.”
Phase one of the recent capital campaign completed the building of Paige and Dorothy Patterson Hall, begun in October 2006. The building holds classroom and office space and the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture.
The second phase of a capital campaign seeks more scholarship funding for The College at Southeastern, established in 1994, Hall said.
Southeastern teaching personal finances
For the past four of five years, The College at Southeastern has been offering a personal finance class as an elective to its students.
“It’s a class designed to help students think about the issue of stewardship from a biblical perspective,” said Russell Woodbridge, professor and a former International Mission Board (IMB) missionary in Vienna, Austria, who teaches that class.
A former professional trader in Frankfurt, Germany, with Salomon Brothers, now a subsidiary of Citigroup, Woodbridge brings his time in the day-to-day financial world to his students.
Another class is being taught for one week in January at the college level, and the seminary is offering a class over Spring Break.
Woodbridge said the seminary realized the importance of teaching stewardship to their students so they could turn around and teach their congregations.
Not only does the class spend time in the Bible, but they look at how to budget; how to stay out of debt; how to make good, wise purchases especially on larger items; how to deal with finances within the church; what are retirement accounts; and they learn some practical tips for pastors.
Referring to Matt. 6:21, Woodbridge said, “what you value most is going to be reflective in your life.”
He shared about how his pastor makes it a point within his family to give more to missions than to individuals, including his wife.
“If you give $1,500 towards Christmas gifts and $50 to Lottie Moon (Christmas Offering) … we’re not supposed to lay up our treasures on earth,” Woodbridge said. “One reason that people don’t give is that they can’t. They are in so much debt, such disarray.”
The class is important for those preparing for ministry, he said, because spiritual leaders need to lead the way in their personal finances.
Woodbridge and his family are leaving Southeastern soon for the mission field with the IMB. He is not certain who will teach this class after he leaves.
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.