In August 2016, I set out to understand the state of Protestant seminaries in the United States by evaluating student enrollment among accredited schools. The results revealed that students seeking training for church ministry were overwhelmingly attracted to orthodox, evangelical Protestant institutions. Meanwhile, the smallest accredited Protestant seminaries in the nation included three Episcopal seminaries and two Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) seminaries.
What of those rankings today? I wondered if there have been any significant changes in attendance at America’s largest Protestant seminaries over the last four academic years. And what of those small, progressive seminaries? How have they fared over the last three years? Had they seen miraculous growth or a continued decline?
Given that Fuller Theological Seminary fell from the number #1 position, a progressive Baptist seminary shuttered its doors, and a Seventh-day Adventist school now ranks among the top 10 largest seminaries, there are, indeed, changes worth noting here.
Reports made available through the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) provide data for member schools from 1975 until the 2018-2019 academic school year. To be counted in this evaluation, seminaries must be ATS-accredited and degree-granting institutions and not departments or houses of studies within universities. Also, this compiled list is only a comparison of full-time students enrolled (FTE) in seminaries in the United States that are affiliated with Protestant denominations.
Notably, today, the top three largest Protestant seminaries in the United States are Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated institutions. This is an interesting change from 2015-2016, when Fuller Theological Seminary claimed the #1 largest position, with 1,542 full-time students at the time.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is now the largest Protestant seminary in the country, after a 20 percent rise in FTE between the 2015-2016 and the 2018-2019 academic school years. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary experienced an impressive 32 percent increase in FTE between those same academic school years.
Nearly all of the top 10 schools in 2015-2016 experienced growth except for Fuller and Trinity Evangelical Theological Seminary. Fuller, an interdenominational Protestant school, saw an 18 percent decline in FTE between the 2015-2016 and 2018-2019 academic years. Trinity actually saw an increase of 43 full-time students between 2016 and 2017 before experiencing a slight ten percent decline in FTE between the 2015-2016 and 2018-2019 academic years.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Chelsen Vicari