By Paula Schlueter Ross
Total enrollment this fall in all programs at the Synod’s two seminaries combined is down — from 1,028 last year to 962 this year, a drop of 66 students, or 6 percent.
Total ordination-track enrollment at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, also fell — from 835 in 2009 to 767 this year, a drop of 68 students, or 8 percent.
And while the number of residential students enrolled in programs leading to ordination at both seminaries continues to fall — from 622 to 545 this year, with 77 fewer students, or a 12 percent decline (there was a 38 student, or 6 percent, drop in 2009) — the number of distance-education students in the ordination track continues to rise. This year there are 222 — 9 more than last year. In 2009 there was a gain of 77 non-residential students over the previous year because 55 students began studies in the Specific Ministry Pastor (SMP) program.
The SMP program, which began enrolling students in 2008, continues to draw ordination-track students, particularly at the St. Louis seminary, which enrolled 17 students in a new spring 2010 cohort and another 24 this fall, noted Dr. Glen Thomas, executive director of LCMS Pastoral Education.
Currently, there are 127 SMP students at both seminaries combined. “That’s pretty commendable for a program that just started [two years ago],” said Thomas, “and would seem to indicate that there is certainly a demand in the church.”
SMP students take most of their courses online while they serve a “specific ministry” in a congregation, mission plant or ethnic setting, which precludes their enrollment in a residential program.
Another bright spot in this year’s enrollment statistics is in deaconess training, especially at the Fort Wayne seminary, which enrolled 18 new M.A. deaconess students this fall, compared to 15 last year. The total number of deaconess students at both seminaries — including M.A. and non-M.A. — is 67, with 28 new students this fall. Those figures represent increases of 17 total (up 34 percent), and 9 new (up 47 percent), since fall 2009 — significant growth, noted Thomas.
The total number of students enrolled in graduate programs at both seminaries also has grown dramatically.
“In terms of new students, we have 66 this fall, versus 37 new last year, so that’s quite an increase,” said Thomas. The Master of Sacred Theology programs enrolled 21 new students this fall, compared to 9 last year, an increase of 133 percent, and the Ph.D. programs enrolled 18 new students, an increase of 80 percent over last year’s 10 incoming students.
“Those [graduate students] are, in many cases, new leaders for the future for our church body as well as for Lutheran church bodies around the world,” said Thomas. “So that’s a real blessing.”
Thomas says the country’s economic downturn “continues to have an impact upon enrollment,” especially for second-career students, and he expects those numbers to grow once the economy improves.
Still, the Synod’s two seminaries continue to have more students enrolled than 75 percent of the 250 seminaries and theology schools in the U.S. and Canada that comprise the Association of Theological Schools, he says.
“While it is disappointing to note that the total number of those at our seminaries preparing for ordained ministry decreased this year, we should give thanks to the Lord of the Church that there are 767 men who are preparing for future service in the pastoral ministry,” he added.
Enrollment statistics for the seminaries individually are as follows:
- Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, reported a total enrollment of 612 students (37 fewer than last year), with 503 enrolled in programs leading to ordination, a drop of 43 students.
- Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, reported a total enrollment of 350 (29 fewer than last year), with 264 enrolled in programs leading to ordination (down 25).
Its student body includes 314 M.Div. students, 12 alternate-route pastoral students, 177 non-residential pastoral students and 28 deaconess students.
Gains were recorded in the seminary’s SMP program (the total rose from 49 to 87, with 24 new students), M.A. deaconess program (up 2), Master of Sacred Theology program (up 5) and non-M.A. deaconess program (up 10).
Its student body includes 210 M.Div. students, 9 alternate-route pastoral students, 45 non-residential pastoral students and 39 deaconess students.
Gains were recorded in the number of SMP students (from 32 to 40, with 8 new students), M.A. — Deaconess program (up 5), Master of Sacred Theology program (up 2) and Doctor of Ministry (up 1).
Tuition and fees are about $21,000 to $22,000 at both seminaries, before financial aid is awarded.
Enrollment figures from the Synod’s 10 Concordia University System schools are not yet available.
Posted Oct. 20, 2010