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Study places Southern Baptist seminaries as among least expensive in the nation

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary saw the biggest tuition increase among Southern Baptist seminaries in the last 20 years, bringing it more in line with its sister seminaries. Southern Baptist schools are among the most affordable of all seminaries.

CHARLESTON, Ill. (BP) — Research on the cost of attending seminary in the United States points to Southern Baptist schools offering one of the least expensive paths toward a degree.

According to Ryan Burge at Graphs About Religion, tuition and fees at Southern Baptist seminaries cost an average of $8,223 in the 2022-23 academic year. That placed them near the bottom of 19 groups in a graph by denomination. United Methodist Church seminaries were the most expensive, at $22,699.

His findings, produced Sept. 14, are a continuation of an Aug. 24 post on the current state of seminary education in the United State. The data comes from a report produced by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).

“In comparison, the Baptist seminaries are downright affordable,” wrote Burge, a professor at Eastern Illinois University and pastor with American Baptist Churches USA.

“The average Southern Baptist seminary student is paying just over $8,000 per year. The Anglicans are even lower at about $7,000,” he said. “I know that these are all sticker prices, by the way. I’m pretty sure almost no one actually pays the amounts listed on the ATS data website.”

Gifts by Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program help offset the costs of theological training for students who are members of SBC churches. Per the vote of messengers at the annual meeting, a 22.16 percent allocation of CP gifts are sent to the six Southern Baptist seminaries as well as the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives.

“The Cooperative Program provides more than 30 percent of our annual budget,” said Gateway Seminary President Jeff Iorg. “Without it, the cost would be passed on to students.

“Given current economic realities where students are already struggling to pay for school, it seems unlikely they would be able to take on this burden. We thank God for the investment Southern Baptists are making in their future leaders through the Cooperative Program.”

Burge noted that while the number of Southern Baptists has gotten smaller, there are 14 percent more seminarians than 20 years ago. He also pointed out that the cost of attending an ATS seminary has risen nearly 90 percent in the last 20 years.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary saw the biggest jump among SBC schools, with that largely attributed to its being the cheapest in 2003 at $1,635. NOBTS is still “pretty cost effective” Burge said, and is now more in line with other SBC seminaries.

Catholic seminaries were the most expensive, according to his report, with the University of Notre Dame Department of Theology requiring $58,590 annually in tuition and fees. Notre Dame Seminary was next at $36,334.