News & Insights

Burst bubble

Read Part 1 of this post.

Is theological education in the bubble, too?

Few doubt that higher education is on the verge -- or in the midst -- of a sector-wide shift. Some are likening the current situation to the housing and lending bubbles that recently "burst" (as we discussed in Part 1). But does the threat extend to theological education, with its unique purposes, constituencies, and outcomes?

Yes. The canaries in the coal mine have been sickly for quite some time:


  • Seminary headcounts continue to fall, by 1.6 percent in 2009-10.
  • Tuition continues to rise, by an average of around 4 percent across all institutions and degree programs in 2009-10.
  • Student debt is still a major concern.
  • The religious landscape is rapidly changing, as 72% of "millennials" are "more spiritual than religious."


Perhaps more daunting is the impact of direct lending on theological schools. The Department of Education has bought a stake in the success of educational institutions -- seminaries included -- and now views theological schools just like any other institution of higher learning, no different from undergraduate colleges, law or medical schools, or for-profit vocational schools. Expectations of theological schools will be rising, and the DOE is watching.

By most indications, theological education is in the bubble with other institutions of higher education. In his recent address (pdf) at the Biennial Meeting of the The Association of Theological Schools and The Commission on Accrediting in Montreal, executive director Daniel Aleshire hinted that the Commission on Accrediting will almost certainly be allowing more creativity from its schools so they can meet these emerging challenges head on. 

Indeed, there are a lot of unanswered questions right now, and governing boards would be well advised to ask hard questions, bring creative ideas, and bring their expertise to the table. It will be the steady leadership of trustees and senior administrators that guide our schools through these choppy waters of change. 


Image credit

Top Topics

Roles & Responsibilities



Board Essentials

Upcoming Events

The In Trust Center hosts learning community spaces throughout the year. Check out our upcoming events below.

Closing the Trust Gap


The current and very troubling condition of trust is a clarion call to action. But despite the dismal data showing pervasive organizational distrust, every organization can assess their current level of trust, learn and adopt a proven trust building framework, and then develop a meaningful and long-lasting plan of action. This webinar details the knowledge and practical next steps to strengthen workplace culture as a result of closing the trust gap.

In Trust Center Resource Grants


An In Trust Center Resource Grant offers member schools a chance to explore innovation at their institutions through a matching grant opportunity of up to $15,000. Listen to this 30-minute information session, including Q&A, as we provide details on eligibility requirements, funding priorities, application process. Previous grantees are eligible to apply as long as they are not within our current funding cycle.

Conflict + Crisis: Navigating the Shoals, Part 2 – A Deeper Dive


Presenter Donna Alexander, President & CEO of Advoxum Global Strategies, offers best practices for navigating conflict and crisis. She examines the crucial elements of defining conflict and crisis, identifying, and prioritizing affected stakeholders, utilizing effective communication strategies, and ultimately, executing a plan of action. Click here to view.

Can’t Find What You’re Looking For?

In Trust Center provides Resource Consulting to our members at no charge. Contact us today and let us guide you to the most helpful resources for your situation.

Contact Us