During the last two decades, evangelical seminaries experienced phenomenal growth. A slowdown was inevitable—if for no other reason, than because schools were outgrowing their limited facilities.
However, officials at a number of evangelical seminaries now fear an actual decline in student enrollments. In fact, many of these seminaries reported drops in the number of applications for fall 1980 enrollment. (At press time, it was not possible to determine if the actual number of enrollees had dropped.)
In interviews, various seminary officials indicated an awareness of the present threats to seminary growth: a smaller pool of college graduates from which to draw, inflation and rising costs, and an increased emphasis at Christian colleges on secular—not religion-related—full-time work. Only now, they indicated, are seminaries feeling the repercussions of dipping enrollments, which have caused more than 120 colleges to close since the late 1960s.
Ralph Covell, academic dean of Conservative Baptist Seminary in Denver, indicated: “With universities and colleges undergoing retrenchment and reallocation in order to survive the 1980s, it is impossible for seminaries not to be affected.”
Cary Rickman, admissions director at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, said, “We have been preparing for a drop, knowing the downward trend which has penetrated undergraduate enrollments.… Beyond 1985 we hope we will see the trend move upward, but for now we are all in for a definite drop.”
Asbury, Westminister Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and Gordon-Conwell Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, all anticipated declines this fall. Gordon’s number of applications for 1980 ...1
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