Back in the 1990s, seminaries seemed to be thriving. A 1994 cover piece in Christianity Today reported, “In 1992, the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) reported a 9.8 percent enrollment increase over 1991, the largest single increase ever recorded. There was a full-time-equivalent enrollment of 46,400 students in more than 210 institutions. This fall, at least one school reports a 20 percent increase in 1994-95 total enrollment over the previous academic year. Other institutions around the country say they have similarly healthy programs.”
Overall, the article’s thrust was in the opposite direction. The author, Timothy Morgan, cited experts who were “sounding the alarm that seminaries face a ‘crisis of credibility.’ They say seminaries are in danger of ‘downsizing’ faculties, programs, and institutions, and are faced with unexpected competition for theological training-the local church itself.” Others warned that seminaries were losing the clarity of their vision and a sense of purpose.
Twenty years on, it turns out that the experts were right.
Seminary has never made financial sense for students. Many seminarians amass tens of thousands of dollars of debt preparing for a low-income, volatile, risky, high-stress job. Now that theological education is widely available with a few key strokes, spending three or four years at seminary makes even less sense.
Today, seminary education isn’t making financial sense for seminaries either.
Read further at Theopolis.