Seminary Size – Evangelicals are #1

Protestant Seminary EnrollmentHow large is large when it comes to a seminary student body in America?

The primary accrediting body, Association of Theological Schools (ATS), accredited 246 institutions during the 2015-16 school year with an enrollment of just over 37,000 students (full-time equivalent) in the USA.

Earlier this month Chelsen Vicari mined the ATS data to determine the largest seminaries in the USA.  Based on full-time enrollment numbers for the 2015-16 school year she found

  • The top ten largest seminaries (based on highest enrollment) are all Evangelical Protestant
  • Half of the top ten largest seminaries are affiliated with the Southern Baptist denomination

So What?

The ten largest seminaries account for more than 1/4 of the student body of the 246 seminaries accredited by the ATS.  The top ten institutions range in size from 1,542 to 731, including six with at least 1,000 students: Fuller Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Asbury Theological Seminary, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Dallas Theological Seminary.

With nearly 11,000 full-time students at the largest ten seminaries, the average full-time student count for the remaining 236 schools is 110.

Bigger isn’t necessarily better.  In the current higher education marketplace, however, scale helps in many areas from marketing to fundraising.

  • What seminary are you most familiar with? How large is that institution today? Based on what you know of the seminary, what are its top challenges?
  • Are you surprised to learn that 100% of the ten largest seminaries are Evangelical Protestant?  What challenges does this present for those in denominations affiliated with Mainline Protestantism?

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