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Southwestern cuts tuition; sets $100 million campaign

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Money didn’t just talk at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary trustee meeting March 12. It sang two-part harmony:

1) A $100 million fund-raising campaign, “to carry us into the 21st century.”

2) A 12.5 percent cut in tuition, from $80 to $70 per hour, making one of the lowest-cost seminaries in America (according to rankings by the Association of Theological Schools) even more affordable.

Admitting mixed feelings of “confidence and fear” when asking trustees to endorse the “Touch the World … Impact Eternity” campaign and approve the budget, Ken Hemphill, president of the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary, cited three factors weighing in favor of the moves.

First is a “window of opportunity,” he explained. “The greatest exchange of wealth in the history of this country will take place in the next 15 years. One-third of the personal financial assets in America will pass to inheritors in the coming decade and a half. The opportunity for people to fund what Southwestern Seminary is about as we strive to join God in what he is doing is exciting.”

Second is “the desperate spiritual need of our world and what happens if we don’t” provide theological training opportunities, he said. If Southwestern, the largest evangelical Christian seminary in the world, “doesn’t do its job well, then the local churches and the mission-sending agencies who depend on our graduates won’t do their jobs well either.”

Third, he said, “it’s worth the cost.”

Hemphill also repeated his belief “we may be living in the generation that will see God send a great revival on this land — and we’d better be ready. I believe with all my heart if anyone is going to fulfill the Great Commission it will be the men and women who worship in our chapel and learn in our classrooms.”

The campaign, with a still-to-be-determined time frame of between five and 10 years, will direct approximately:

— $20 million for construction of a continuing education center.

— $2.8 million for student housing.

— $15 million to a fine arts center.

— $3.5 million for buildings for the extension center at San Antonio.

— $1.1 million for improvements at the recreation and aerobics center.

— $300,000 for guest houses.

— $600,000-plus for improvements in the student center.

— $1 million for campus improvements ranging from street lighting to computer labs to electrical upgrades.

— $10 million to endow faculty chairs.

— $4 million to the Tolar Faculty Fund (to provide college scholarships for faculty children and other benefits).

— $4 million for scholarships for children of pastors and missionaries and $37.6 million for general endowment.

“Raising this kind of money is not a difficult task,” Jack Terry, vice president for institutional advancement, said. “It is an impossible task — only God can do it!”

The tuition cut, which was tied to removal of a cap on tuition charges after 10 hours, contrasts with national trends of escalating student costs. An estimated 75 percent of Southwestern students benefit from lower total fees. Only students carrying more than 12 hours will have an increase. The six Southern Baptist seminaries (largely because of funding from the Southern Baptist Convention’s unified giving plan, the Cooperative Program) are already the least expensive among members of the ATS.

The move was largely made possible by increased funding for the next year from the Cooperative Program. “The SBC Executive Committee made it abundantly clear that the extra funding we will receive the next budget year is part of a transitional budget tied to the reorganization of the convention,” Hemphill said. “We have no promise our portion will remain at that level. But we wanted to put the money where it would do the most good.”

Southwestern’s Aug. 1, 1997-July 31, 1998, budget is $24,387,511 compared to $22,885,828 for the current year, a 6.5 percent increase. The Cooperative Program, funded by gifts to the SBC by the 40,000 Southern Baptist churches across the country, is expected to provide $8.83 million of the total income.

Both the budget and the “Touch the World … Impact Eternity” campaign were approved without opposition.

The next meeting of Southwestern’s trustees will be Oct. 20-22.

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  • Craig Bird