Many significant financial changes have occurred at Winebrenner since I arrived in March 2016. Winebrenner’s continued work toward financial stability is not unlike that of other theological seminaries in the United States, including Fuller Theological Seminary (one of the three largest seminaries in the United States according to the Association of Theological Schools) who, in May 2018, announced plans to sell its campus. Fuller’s president, Dr. Mark Labberton, said in conjunction with the sale announcement, “in the last few years we have been through meticulous financial excavation, budget scrutiny, and painful cuts as we’ve navigated an increasingly challenging and disrupted higher education landscape … belt-tightening alone, though, is not enough.” While a fraction of the size of Fuller, this quote could have been attributed to our president, Dr. Brent Sleasman as we found belt-tightening to not be enough prompting the sale of our building to the University of Findlay in April 2018.
At Winebrenner we feel the need to balance continued work toward financial stability and the affordability of higher education while acknowledging that affordability is coupled with the economic challenges facing future ministers. DiSalvo (2017), says “college affordability is driven primarily by price perception, namely the gross price of tuition published.” Federal anti-trust laws prohibit Winebrenner from talking with its peers about pricing, therefore, when it comes to determining affordability and balancing it against financial stability, we’re on our own.
Heralded as a ‘tuition reset,’ at their May, 2019, meeting the Winebrenner Board of Trustees approved a reduction in tuition to $525 per credit hour for Masters level courses and $200 per course for Pastoral Training Institute courses while eliminating the general service fee. While it is believed that this tuition reset will prove to better balance the work toward financial stability and the affordability of a Winebrenner education, it is not without risk. DiSalvo states, “some colleges have attempted to lower their gross price independently … instead of being perceived as a bargain, most families wonder if there is something wrong, or if the school is not competitive academically.” We are steadfast in our commitment to Winebrenner’s mission of equipping leaders for service in God’s Kingdom; there is no reduction in the quality of education or services received in conjunction with this tuition reset.
The reality of the economic challenges facing future ministers and Christian counselors is not lost on us. Unfortunately, we currently are not in a position to offer our courses tuition-free like the New York University School of Medicine announced in August, 2018 (Chen, 2018).
Wouldn’t this, though, be a testament to God’s provision if He were to bless Winebrenner with endowed contributions targeted at completely funding seminary operations?
Like you, Winebrenner relies on God to meet its every need and looks forward to the testimony to be shared when we reflect on how He has met each need according to His perfect plan.
By Thomas D Weaver, MEd, MBA
Director of Finance
Chen, D. (2018, August 16). Surprise Gift: Free Tuition for All N.Y.U. Medical Students. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/16/nyregion/nyu-free-tuition-medical-school.html
Christian Century Staff. (2018, May 30). Fuller seminary to sell campus and move. The Christian Century. Retrieved from https://www.christiancentury.org/article/news/fuller-seminary-sell-pasadena-campus-and-move
DiSalvo, S. (2017, March). Higher education affordability. New England Journal of Higher Education. Retrieved from https://nebhe.org/journal/higher-education-affordability-two-approaches/