How To Overcome Financial Barriers To Seminary
August 25, 2023
When entertaining the idea of seminary education, one of the questions that looms the largest in a prospective student’s mind tends to be, “How am I going to pay for this?” We understand that costs can seem prohibitive and that “sticker shock” is a real thing. We also know that nearly everyone has these concerns. Ultimately, finances will be a concern no matter where you decide to go for your theological education. So making your decision on the basis of finances rather than on the content of the education you will be receiving can be reductive.
With that said, knowing that financial barriers are very real, we strive to provide ways to soften the potential financial burden created by tuition costs, and work with you to make sure that the cost of your seminary education is as low as possible. In this article we will take a closer look at these efforts by examining the biblical basis for fundraising, the residential program costs, the online program costs, and a breakdown of tuition and financial aid for each program.
Biblical Background to Fundraising
As we will elaborate upon later, an important tool in our arsenal for remediating the financial barriers to seminary education is fundraising. Westminster will come alongside you as you raise funds for tuition. In our modern context, the idea of raising funds may seem off-putting, but it is a concept that is deeply rooted in Scripture. All throughout the history of redemption, the proclamation of the Gospel has been empowered through financial partnerships.
In Numbers 18:23-24 we see that the tribe of Levi was not given an inheritance because they were dedicated to the service of the Lord. Rather, the rest of the tribes supported them with financial tithes. Their ministry was funded by the people of Israel financially partnering alongside them. Likewise, in the New Testament, Paul often makes note of his financial partners and is not shy about requesting financial assistance from his Gospel partners. In Romans 15:24 Paul asks the church in Rome to assist him on his way to Spain. He is asking for financial assistance to ensure that the Gospel is able to be preached in Spain.
To be successful in seminary, and further, in ministry, you need partnership. Partners who will come alongside you both in prayer and financially are vital. And, like the people of Israel supporting the Levites and the church in Rome supporting Paul, your supporters will be investing in the kingdom of God going forth through you.
The overall cost of your education depends upon on the modality through which you will be undertaking your education. Residential education and online education have different costs associated with them and different hurdles that you will have to clear.
Residential students need to plan for the cost of tuition, as well as the costs associated with relocating to the Northeastern region of the United States. The cost of moving, finding housing, and finding work are also key factors. The cost of living in the Philadelphia area is also significantly higher than regions like the South or the Midwest and should be accounted for in your calculations.
Westminster’s online programs have fewer financial obstacles to overcome and also have a lower tuition rate ($650 per credit hour). You don’t have to worry about any of the costs associated with relocating to the Northeast and you can typically count on maintaining your current employment. Additionally, you won’t need to worry about money spent on commuting to campus, or the cost of maintaining a source of transportation (personal vehicle, ride share service, etc.). However, as you will see below, there are less scholarship options available when compared to Westminster’s residential programs.
Breakdown by Degree Program
When it comes to tuition and financial aid, the figures vary based upon the program in which you are seeking to enroll. With that in mind we will go program by program and explain the costs and the ways in which we have sought to remediate those costs.
The residential MDiv and MAR have a tuition cost of $1,025 per credit hour. The entire 111 credits of the MDiv would thus account for $113,775 total or $28,444 per year over 4 years. The 74 credits of the MAR would account for $75,850 total. The MDiv Pastoral Fellows program has a higher tuition rate of $1,500 per credit hour which accounts for $166,500 or $41,625 per year.
Now these may be some pretty scary numbers if you are wondering how to afford seminary. However, with scholarships, you won’t even need to pay a fraction of this. Each student is offered two scholarships. The first scholarship is merit-based, starts at 50%, and can scale up to 90%. Since the average student’s tuition is roughly $28K per year, you can expect to absorb no more than $14k per year in tuition costs.
There is another scholarship opportunity to further alleviate the financial burden of the residential program, too— a dollar for dollar matching scholarship in which Westminster will match any funds you raise from financial partners down to $0. So, if you have $14k in tuition per year and raise $7k in yearly financial support, Westminster will match that $7k and you will pay nothing in tuition.
Online MDiv/MAR and MAC/MATS
Our online programs are all billed at $650 per credit hour. This means that the MDiv, at 111 credits, is $72,150 total or $18,035 per year for 4 years. The MAR, at 74 credits, is $48,100 total. The MAC, at 63 credits, is $40,950 total. The MATS, at 36 credits, is $23,400 total.
While significantly cheaper than our residential offerings, there are less scholarships available to alleviate the full financial burden. The scholarship available for our online offerings is currently a dollar for dollar matching scholarship of $650 per term ($1,950 per year). The stipulations for this scholarship is that you must be enrolled in at least two courses and maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
The tuition costs of the ThM are billed on a per course basis rather than a per credit basis. Each ThM course is $3,900 dollars. The ThM Requires 6-8 courses to fulfill. Therefore, the ThM is roughly $23,400-$31,200 total. The ThM also has a dollar for dollar matching scholarship in which Westminster will match up to 20% of the overall tuition cost.
The PhD is also billed on a per course basis like the ThM. The cost of each PhD course is $4,800 per course. The PhD requires 10 courses to fulfill and tuition is thus $48,000 total. Scholarships for the PhD are very limited and are entirely merit based. Every PhD applicant is automatically considered for scholarship. The scholarships account for full funding and cover all tuition costs as well as fees.
When it comes to the tuition costs at Westminster, you have the same objective that we do. We want you to get scholarships and we want to partner with you to develop a network that will support you in your theological education and come alongside you into your Gospel ministry after seminary.
If you have more questions about tuition and financial aid, we encourage you to reach out to one of our admissions counselors. Our admissions team is composed of subject matter experts, alumni, and current students who are available to understand and address your specific financial burdens and obstacles. They would also be more than happy to walk you through our theological distinctives, the nuances of our degree programs, or any other logistical issues that you might have. Feel free to reach out to them here.
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