Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Desperate Times at VTS? Will Free Tuition Help the Problem of Falling Enrollment?

With many of the candidates for the Democrat's presidential primary promising tuition free college education, most of us who paid for our education are left wondering how we taxpayers are going to afford such a give-away.

One wealthy Episcopal seminary, Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), is already experimenting with the idea of a free ride, along with free meals, housing, and healthcare, but there may be a hidden motive behind this move. The story from Episcopal News Service is as follows,

"Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) is delighted to announce an expanded and simplified financial aid application and award process that will allow anyone with assets less than $200,000 (excluding one’s primary home and any pensions) have the costs of education covered.
'Expanding and simplifying our financial aid packages is an investment in the future of the Episcopal Church,” said the Very Rev. Ian S. Markham, Ph.D., dean and president of VTS. “Many institutions are going tuition free, but we are going tuition free, housing free, meal plan free, and making a substantial contribution to healthcare.'
In a move that will help ensure the Seminary’s goal of making theological education accessible to all, effective immediately, all students applying for financial aid for Fall 2019 with a combined adjusted gross income (single/family) less than $150,000 annually and/or combined assets less than eight times the respective Cost of Residency category (see below) will receive a package that includes:
• The cost of tuition;• The cost of housing;• The cost of a meal plan (for single students – three meals weekday, for all others – the lunch-only plan); and• A maximum contribution of $4,000 towards healthcare cost for those selecting the VTS sponsored health insurance plan.
'With this step, VTS has made it possible for students to attend seminary without taking out educational loans to cover tuition, room, or board,” said the Rt. Rev. James R. Mathes, associate dean of students. “Most students should be able to graduate from VTS debt-free.'
To qualify, all students must apply for financial aid to be considered for this award package. Assets to be considered for the Cost of Residency requirement are: Cash and Cash Equivalents, Stocks, Bonds, and Real Estate Holdings. Primary Residence and Pension/Retirement accounts will not be considered. Cost of Residency categories are defined as follows:
• Single students: $24,200;• Students living in a one-bedroom apartment: $34,100;• Students living in a two-bedroom apartment: $36,500;• Students living in a three-bedroom apartment or house: $38,900;• Students that cannot live on the campus and live in rented accommodation off-campus: $41,300.
'We are thrilled to be able to offer such comprehensive scholarship packages to our students and to make theological education accessible for all,' said Jacqueline Ballou, CPA, MBA vice president for Finance and Operations.
Any student electing to live off-campus when on-campus housing is available will not be eligible for housing accommodation but will be eligible to receive an award to cover tuition, fees, and meal plan. Each student will be required to present an annual budget of living expenses. This budget should clearly identify the sources that will be used to meet all other financial obligations during residency.
'Student debt has become a multi-generational burden,' added Dean Markham. 'VTS is in a fortunate position to make a difference. This is the right thing to do.'”
How can they afford all of that? They do have a $17 million operating budget but a $160 million endowment fund (gleaned from this story).

Over at Juicy Ecumenism back in 2014 we saw the early warning signs of problems at VTS.
"Giving to the Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) Annual Fund has dropped dramatically in recent years. In 2006, the Alexandria, Virginia-based school received $1,050,000 from parishes, alumni and other supporters. By Fiscal Year 2013, giving to the fund had been cut nearly in half, dropping to $538,000.VTS officials have not let the shortfall go unnoticed, with Markham making development of the Annual Fund a priority for Fiscal Year 2014."
So where is the hidden motive?

Juicy Ecumenism dropped a hint in the above article,
"Data provided from the Association of Theological Schools shows a total 2012-2013 enrollment of 250 in VTS, with 169 full-time students taking classes"
I thought I would update those numbers to look at the trend in enrollment by going to The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) data base,
Fall 2010 Head count 241, Full time enrolled 171Fall 2018 Head Count 188, Full time enrolled 138 (From  here)
Falling enrollment is clearly the motivation behind the freebies.


  1. The fall from orthodoxy at VTS began with the "new" prayer book & women's ordination in the early 80s and the ongoing left wing revisionism of TEC. Dean Markham tried to put the best face on this reality with occasional moderate pronouncements.. However, the destruction of the historic chapel (where Robert E Lee and Stonewall Jackson both worshiped) by fire caused by "accident" by a person never identified.,. apparently incense coals dumped in a waste paper still looks like arson to me. It permitted a windfall of insurance money and fundraising which led to the current post modern chapel more in tune with TEC today (hollow and irrelevant). That the majority of students are now women and that enrollment is falling should come as no surprise.

  2. VTS is reaping the rewards of many a bad seed sown by revisionism.