SEMINARY & What are America’s Largest Seminaries?

by Chelsen Vicari, The Institute on Religion and Democracy 8/1/16.

Thanks to figures collected by the Association of Theological Schools(ATS), it’s possible to compile full-time student enrollment among accredited schools to get a better picture of the largest seminaries in the United States.

Latest reports from the 2015-16 academic year reveal an interesting picture: students seeking training for church ministry in the United States are largely attracted to evangelical Protestant seminaries, a trend that hasn’t changed much over the past twenty years.

A note regarding data collection: this compiled list is only a comparison of full-time students enrolled in seminaries accredited with the ATS. The ATS does provide a head count enrollment total which includes part-time students. But since full-time enrollment is the most stable measure of seminary size, this still accurately represents institutional attainment.

The evangelical Fuller Theological Seminary ranks largest with 1,542 full-time enrolled students during the 2015-16 academic year. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary follow closely behind with 1,438 and 1,356 full-time enrolled students, respectively.

Seminaries Table 1

While all of the ten largest seminaries in the country are evangelical Protestant, it’s interesting that half of those schools are Southern Baptist-affiliated. Five of the six theological seminaries associated with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) are among the top ten largest in the country. Meanwhile, the SBC-affiliated Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary barely missed the list with 705 full-time students enrolled.

Fluctuations between America’s top ten largest seminaries during the 2015-16 and 1995-96 academic school years are surprisingly narrow. Only Reformed Theological Seminary, Presbyterian Church USA-affiliated Princeton Theological Seminary, and United Methodist Church-affiliated Candler School of Theology fell out of the top ten.

Seminaries Table 2

Since the 1995-96 academic school year, Princeton Theological Seminary has seen 30 percent fewer full-time enrolled students. Reformed Theological Seminary saw a 33 percent decrease to 547 full-time students while Candler School of Theology experienced a 39 percent drop to 414 full-time students.

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WESLEY SEMINARY & Why it models the future of theological schools #WesleySem

An interview with Daniel O. Aleshire by Faith and Leadership Magazine, Assoc. of Theological Schools, 5/5/15.

“The professional master’s degree has been growing — a trend that’s likely to continue, says the executive director of The Association of Theological Schools in an interview reflecting on a new report on theological education.”

When The Association of Theological Schools released a report on enrollment trends over the last five years, the headline was a bit surprising. “Seminaries set six enrollment records(link is external)” was the title of the report, which went on to describe the growth trends, including a record number of professional master’s degree students. Another recent report identified 100 seminaries that have grown over the past five years(link is external) and examined the reasons why. “The trends described here suggest a brighter future for graduate theological education — six years out from the recession — than is often reported,” the enrollment report said. As executive director of ATS(link is external), Daniel O. Aleshire is in a unique position to observe and reflect on the fast-changing landscape of theological education. He spoke to Faith & Leadership about educational trends and what they mean for mainline institutions. The following is an edited transcript.

Q: What do you see as the most significant bright spots? Forty percent of ATS schools have had increasing enrollment. But the primary learning is that there’s no one set of characteristics that is applicable across these growing schools. They’re growing for different reasons, so there’s not the opportunity to mimic a particular institutional behavior and expect the same institutional result by other schools. Some of the schools that were growing, for example, were candidates for accreditation. They experienced a jump in enrollment once they attained accredited status. Other schools have developed new educational programs, and it appears that increases in enrollment are directly related to either new degree programs or new patterns of educational delivery. Some schools have revamped their admissions process — the way they are posturing the school, describing its mission, focusing in on a particular constituency — and for some schools, that appears to be what contributed to their growth.

Q: Degree-seeking students have declined by 3 percent since 2009, but some numbers are rising. Talk a little bit about that. The master of divinity degree continues to be the program with the most students enrolled, but the enrollment in the M.Div. has been declining, while the enrollment in the professional master’s degrees has been increasing — in fact, increasing pretty significantly over the last several years. The professional master’s degrees in the olden days of theological education used to be a degree in religious education or a degree in church music. We now have professional master’s degrees offered in almost 250 different degree titles… There is no one of those programs that’s running away. We don’t have the numbers of enrollment by specific title, but my perception is that the primary growth has come in areas of leadership and areas of counseling, and some in areas of intercultural ministry. I think that another possible reason for this growth in professional master’s degree program enrollment has been the growth over the last 30 years of evangelical Protestant schools. Many of these schools are related to church bodies that have a more free-church pattern of polity that means there’s not an entity requiring the M.Div. ordination…

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SEMINARY & Seminaries Set 6 Enrollment Records

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “I wonder how much Wesley Seminary at IWU helped fuel this … at least we contributed! Good job everyone.” 🙂

Seminaries set six enrollment records

by Tom Tanner, The Colloquy Online, 2/15.

In the midst of unprecedented enrollment declines in higher education and a gradual decline in theological school enrollments that began in 2007, the latest figures from The Association of Theological Schools reveal six positive trends. Read more.