Guest / Limited Access /
Higher Ed at a Crossroad

I recall the moment it became clear to me that American Christian higher education was in trouble. It was May 2008, and I was visiting the South African Theological Seminary in Rivonia, near Johannesburg. As the website puts it, the school focuses "on equipping you for service, right where you are in your local church." To this end, it offers distance education only. This is no fly-by-night startup, but is accredited by the South African Council on Higher Education. It offers bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and doctorates in theology.

And at pennies on the dollar. The school intends to educate African pastors who can't afford to leave their ministries, move to greater Johannesburg, and study for two to three years. In addition, the programs have to be affordable. Affordable indeed: An M.Th. degree is a two-year program that costs $2,000 a year. At a typical American seminary, that is about the cost of two classes.

Naturally, students from the West could enroll—at a fraction of the cost of attending schools on their own continents—and still receiving a degree recognized by a national accrediting body of a developed nation.

Compare this with the situation in North America, where the cost of tuition at American colleges (public and private) rose from 23.2 percent of median annual earnings to nearly 39 percent between 2001 and 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the rise in tuition apparently is not keeping up with the cost of a traditional on-campus education. A 2012 Bain Brief study "The Financially Sustainable University" found the a third of all American colleges and universities were not sustainable. The list of financially troubled schools ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueChased by Grace
Subscriber Access Only Chased by Grace
After fleeing her own broken life, Sarah Thebarge learned to see God's image in her refugee neighbors.
RecommendedTwila Paris Defends Brother Indicted for Bribery at Christian College
Twila Paris Defends Brother Indicted for Bribery at Christian College
(UPDATED) Ecclesia president accused of kickback scheme with Arkansas lawmakers. His board and family contend he's innocent.
TrendingRussia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Russia’s Plan to Ban Jehovah’s Witnesses Puts Evangelicals in a Tight Spot
Group gives Protestants competition for souls, but also an ally on religious freedom.
Editor's PickAfter 40 Girls Die in Orphanage Fire, Guatemala Asks Evangelicals for Advice
After 40 Girls Die in Orphanage Fire, Guatemala Asks Evangelicals for Advice
Tragedy becomes impetus for reforms sought by Christian experts.
Christianity Today
Higher Ed at a Crossroad
hide thisMay May

In the Magazine

May 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.