Southern Seminary facing budget shortfall

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP) -- The head of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is predicting layoffs and tuition increases to manage a $3 million budget shortfall.

President Al Mohler said in a Dec. 15 letter to the seminary community that cost-saving measures -- including a hiring freeze on non-essential positions and reduced travel -- have already trimmed the Southern Baptist Convention school's budget by $1.7 million.

That leaves a projected $800,000 to $1.5 million in further reductions projected over the next several months. Mohler said that would likely mean a reduction in the seminary's workforce and increasing tuition to boost revenue.

Mohler pledged "to do our very best to limit tuition increases" as a way to keep theological education affordable to as many ministers as possible.

Endowment, giving down 

Mohler attributed the shortfall to significant losses in the value of the seminary's endowed funds. He also said the school projects annual gift levels this year to be lower than usual and has been advised by denominational leaders to expect economic forces to eventually show up in reduced giving through the SBC.

Prior to the shortfall, Southern Seminary's 2008-2009 budget was $36,947,000. Just less than 40 percent of the school's income comes from tuition and fees. Nine percent is drawn from endowment revenue and 27 percent from the SBC's unified budget, called the Cooperative Program.

Mohler said work will continue on a 14,000 square-foot Welcome Pavilion under construction at the front entrance to the seminary's campus; it is designed to house admissions and the campus-security office. He also said other capital projects that are already funded and under contract will go forward, but all future building projects are on hold.

He said the current nation's economic challenge will likely be measured not in months but instead over the next two to five years.


--Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

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