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TRUSTEES: NOBTS approves $21.5 million budget, looks to resume in-person classes in the fall

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — The Executive Committee of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Board of Trustees approved a 2020-2021 budget of $21.55 million — approximately 9 percent less than in 2019-20 and 10 percent less than the original budget proposal for 2020-21 — during their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday (June 2).

Although budgets are typically approved during the spring board meeting, trustees voted to delay the budget vote until June to allow the seminary’s administrative team to gather better data regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NOBTS president Jamie Dew said he and his cabinet worked during that time to find cost savings. Trustees approved a $21,551,221 balanced budget, which reflects a 10 percent reduction from the original 2020-21 budget proposal, which was developed before the pandemic. The 2019-20 budget is $23.5 million.

“Our team has worked incredibly hard over the past two months to tighten the belt in every possible way, while also making sure that we are able to execute essential functions,” Dew said. “While there are no perfect plans in moments such as these, we feel really good about our plan for the future.”

Dew and Pattie Shoener, vice president of business affairs, informed the board that Cooperative Program receipts since the pandemic began have been encouraging. While CP giving has decreased during COVID-19, Shoener told the board that May CP allotment for NOBTS was up from the previous month. Dew said his team will continue to closely monitor all income streams and keep trustees informed with frequent updates between meetings.

During his report to trustees, Dew commended the work of his cabinet during the crisis. He said the seminary is in a good financial position because of their diligent and creative work, adding that the team is working to facilitate a return to in-person classes for the fall semester. Dew commended the work of Vice President Mike Wetzel’s advancement team and the generosity of seminary donors who raised $435,000 for summer student scholarships, allowing more than 400 students to participate in summer courses and helping the seminary finish the year with a modest increase in total credit hours taken over last year.

In other action, the Executive Committee approved a new, 50-hour advanced master of arts (philosophy) degree. The new degree is composed primarily of existing courses offered at the school except for one course. Provost Norris Grubbs said the philosophy emphasis will address an area of interest among current and prospective students and offers the seminary the opportunity to utilize Dew’s specialization in the classroom along with other gifted philosophers and ethicists on the faculty.

“In our present age, training students to think critically, evaluate competing worldviews, and defend the Christian faith has never been more important,” Dew said. “We are excited about the way this new program allows us to do that.”

In addition to the new M.A., trustees voted to change the name of the master of arts (biblical studies) degree Biblical Backgrounds concentration to Biblical Interpretation and added additional assessment options for completion of the degree. Before, writing a thesis was the only assessment option. Now students can choose to write a thesis, take additional courses, write a summative paper, or take a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) seminar for assessment. The new concentration name also aligns the master’s concentration with the Ph.D. major in Biblical Interpretation.

The board approved the closure of inactive church leadership certificate training sites. The sites are approved to provide eight-hour church leadership certificates in local churches and associations to meet specific training needs.

The meeting was conducted with some members of the Executive Committee on campus and others joining via a combination of BlueJeans conferencing software. To facilitate the involvement of trustees in the on-campus meeting and maintain local social distancing guidelines, some members of the seminary leadership team also participated via BlueJeans.